Kitt was born Eartha Mae Keith on a cotton plantation near the small town of North, in Orangeburg County South Carolina on January 17, 1927. Her mother Mamie Kitt was of Cherokee and African descent.Though it remains unconfirmed, it has been widely reported that her father was of German descent and that Kitt was conceived by rape. She had no knowledge of her father, except that his surname was Kitt and that he was supposedly a son of the owner of the farm where she had been born. Newspaper obituaries state that her white father was “a poor cotton farmer”.In an August 2013 biography, British journalist John Williams claimed that Kitt’s father was a white man, a local doctor named Daniel Sturkie. However, Kitt’s daughter Kitt Shapiro has questioned the accuracy of the claim.Kitt was raised by Anna Mae Riley, a black woman whom the girl believed to be her mother. When she was eight, Anna Mae went to live with a black man, but he refused to accept Kitt because of her relatively pale complexion,so the girl lived with another family until Riley’s death.
She was then sent to live in New York City with Mamie Kitt.Kitt began her career as a member of the Katherine Dunham Company in 1943 and remained a member of the troupe until 1948. A talented singer with a distinctive voice, she recorded the hits “Let’s Do It”, “Champagne Taste”, “C’est si bon” (which Stan Freberg famously burlesqued), “Just an Old Fashioned Girl”, “Monotonous”, “Je cherche un homme”, “Love for Sale”, “I’d Rather Be Burned as a Witch”, “Katibim” (a Turkish melody), “Mink, Schmink”, “Under the Bridges of Paris” and her most recognizable hit “Santa Baby”, which was released in 1953.
Kitt’s unique style was enhanced as she became fluent in French during her years performing in Europe. She spoke four languages[which?] and sang in seven, which she effortlessly demonstrated in many of the live recordings of her cabaret performances.
Kitt was active in numerous social causes in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1966, she established the Kittsville Youth Foundation, a chartered and non-profit organization for underprivileged youth in the Watts area of Los Angeles.She was also involved with a group of youth in the area of Anacostia in Washington, D.C., who called themselves, “Rebels with a Cause.” Kitt supported the group’s efforts to clean up streets and establish recreation areas in an effort to keep them out of trouble by testifying with them before the House General Subcommittee on Education of the Committee on Education and Labor. In her testimony, in May 1967, Kitt stated that the Rebels’ “achievements and accomplishments should certainly make the adult ‘do-gooders’ realize that these young men and women have performed in 1 short year – with limited finances – that which was not achieved by the same people who might object to turning over some of the duties of planning, rehabilitation, and prevention of juvenile delinquents and juvenile delinquency to those who understand it and are living it”. She added that “the Rebels could act as a model for all urban areas throughout the United States with similar problems”.”Rebels with a Cause” subsequently received the needed funding.
Kitt was also a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, thus her criticism of the Vietnam War and its connection to poverty and racial unrest in 1968 can be seen as part of a larger commitment to peace activism.
Like many politically active public figures of her time, Kitt was under surveillance by the CIA, beginning in 1956. After the New York Times discovered the CIA file on Kitt in 1975, she granted the paper permission to print portions of the report, stating: “I have nothing to be afraid of and I have nothing to hide.”
Kitt later became a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and publicly supported same-sex marriage, which she considered a civil right. She had been quoted as saying: “I support it [gay marriage] because we’re asking for the same thing. If I have a partner and something happens to me, I want that partner to enjoy the benefits of what we have reaped together. It’s a civil-rights thing, isn’t it?” Kitt famously appeared at many LGBT fundraisers, including a mega event in Baltimore, Maryland, with George Burns and Jimmy James.Scott Sherman, an agent at Atlantic Entertainment Group, stated: “Eartha Kitt is fantastic… appears at so many LGBT events in support of civil rights.”
Kitt died from colon cancer on Christmas Day 2008, at her home in Weston, Connecticut.
|1965||I Spy||“The Loser”||Angel|
|1967||Mission: Impossible||“The Traitor”||Tina Maria|
|1967-1968||Batman||“The Joke’s on Catwoman”
“The Funny Feline Felonies”
“Catwoman’s Dressed to Kill”
|1972||Lieutenant Schuster’s Wife (TV movie)||Lady|
|1974||The Protectors||“A Pocketful of Posies”||Carrie Blaine|
|To Kill a Cop (TV movie)||Paula|
|1983||A Night on the Town (TV movie)|
|1985||Miami Vice||“Whatever Works”||Priestess Chata|
|1989||After Dark||“Rock Bottom?”|
|1993||Jack’s Place||“The Seventh Meal”||Isabel Lang|
|Matrix||“Moths to a Flame”||Sister Rowena|
|1994||Space Ghost Coast to Coast||Batmantis||Herself|
|1995||The Magic School Bus||“Going Batty”||Mrs. Franklin (voice)|
|New York Undercover||“Student Affairs”||Mrs. Stubbs|
|Living Single||“He Works Hard for the Money”||Jacqueline Richards|
|1996||The Nanny||“A pup in paris “||herself|
|1998||The Wild Thornberrys||“Flood Warning”||Lioness #1 (voice)|
|1999||The Famous Jett Jackson||“Field of Dweebs”||Albertine Whethers|
|2000||Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child||“The Snow Queen”||The Snow Queen (voice)|
|Welcome to New York||“The Car”
“Jim Gets a Car”
|2001||The Feast of All Saints (TV movie)||Lola Dede|
|Santa, Baby! (TV movie)||Emerald (voice)|
|2005||Escape from Cluster Prime (TV movie)||Vexus (voice)|
|My Life as a Teenage Robot||7 episodes||Queen Vexus (voice)|
|2006-2008||The Emperor’s New School||Yzma (voice)|
|2007||American Dad!||“Dope and Faith”||Fortune Teller (voice)|
|2009||The Wonder Pets||“Save the Cool Cat and the Hip Hippo/Tuck and Buck”||Cool Cat (voice)|
|2010||The Simpsons||“Once Upon a Time in Springfield”||Herself|