Vocalist and actress Ethel Waters was a key figure in the development of African American culture between the two World Wars. She broke barrier after barrier, becoming the first black woman heard on the radio, the first black singer to perform on television, the first African American to perform in an integrated cast on Broadway, and the first black woman to perform in a lead dramatic role on Broadway.
As a singer Waters introduced over 50 songs that became hits, including standards of the magnitude of St. Louis Blues and Stormy Weather. Her jazzy yet controlled vocal style influenced a generation of vocalists, black and white, and her career, encompassing stage, song, and screen, flowered several times in comebacks after tumbling to low points.
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