Ethel Waters, born in Chester, PA in 1896, made history and many “firsts.” She was
-the first black woman to appear on radio (on April 21, 1922);
-the first black woman to star on her own at the Palace Theater in New York (in 1925);
-the first black woman to star in a commercial network radio show (in 1933);
-the first singer to introduce 50 songs that became hits (in 1933);
-the first black singer to appear on television (in 1939);
-and the first black woman to star on Broadway in a dramatic play (also in 1939).
She became the first African American to receive an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. The following she won the New York Drama Critics Award. Her 1951 autobiography, which took its title from her character’s hit song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” became a best seller. She passed away in 1977.
April 30, 1972 was proclaimed “Ethel Waters Day” in Pennsylvania by then governor Milton Shapp. The Ethel Waters Park in Chester was first completed in July 1971.
In recognition of the 50 year History of Ethel Waters Day, the City of Chester will celebrate in the Ethel Waters Park from noon to 4pm today with a fun community gathering featuring the oldies, vendors, food, and fellowship.