Eartha Kitt
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1944_Eartha Kitt in New York with the Katharine Dunham Dance Troupe.

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1945_Eartha Kitt with the Katherine Dunham Ballet Company.

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1946_Eartha Kitt with the Katharine Dunham Dance Troupe.

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1948_Eartha Kitt as a Katherine Dunham dancer performing in Street scene, part of Motivos, choreographed by Ms. Dunham.

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1949_Eartha Kitt photographed in front of Istanbul University, Turkey.

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1950_Orson Welles as Faust rehearses with Eartha Kitt as Helen of Troy at the theatre in Paris on June 14.

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1951_Eartha Kitt and Jazz musician Frank Weir.

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1952_Eartha Kitt photographed by Carl Van Vechten.

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1953_Eartha Kitt.

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1954_Eartha Kitt and Dizzy Gillespie at Newport Jazz festival.

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1955_Eartha Kitt in fur.

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1956_Eartha Kitt performing live.

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1956_Marilyn Monroe photographed meeting Eartha Kitt at the premiere for The Prince and the Showgirl on June 13th.

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1958_Eartha Kitt meets the Queen of England.

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1959_Eartha Kitt drinking honey before a vocal performance.

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1960_Eartha Kitt marries John William McDonald, an associate of a real estate investment company, on June 6.

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1961_Kitt McDonald (Shapiro) is born to Eartha and John.

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1961_Fashion fitting at Givenchy’s Paris showroom. The designer can be seen pinning her pink gown while the photographer can be seen making the image. Photo by Tony Vaccaro.

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1962_Eartha Kit asleep on the tour bus.

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1963_Eartha Kitt, Nancy Wilson, Sammy Davis Jr., Sidney Poitier, Berry Gordy and Marlon Brando at Dr King’s funeral services.

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1965_Eartha Kitt.

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1966_Eartha Kitt leaping though poster to launch a Citizens Committee on Hill District Renewal program.

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1967_Eartha Kitt as Catwoman.

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1967_Eartha Kitt as Catwoman.

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1968_Eartha Kitt.

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1968_Eartha Kitt with Ladybird Johnson at the Whitehouse (Bettmann-Getty Images).

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1972_Eartha Kitt in Sunderland in October, when it was announced she was starring in Bunny at the Sunderland Empire.

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1976_Eartha Kitt in her dressing room.

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1978_Broadway production of "Timbuktu!“, a musical revision of “Kismet”, at the Mark Hellinger Theatre.

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1982_Eartha Kitt.

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1984_Eartha Kitt at the Imperial Room in Toronto Canada.

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1985_Eartha Kitt.

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1989_Eartha Kitt.

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1991_Eartha Kitt at age 74 from her book 'Rejuvenate! (It's Never Too Late). Red version of the dress created by Marc Bouwer .

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1991_Eartha Kitt at age 74 from her book 'Rejuvenate! (It's Never Too Late). Marc Bouwer created this dress in red for Eartha Kitt but we changed it to blue for ColonCancerAwareness month. Photographer for this photo shoot was Monkia Robl.

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1996_Eartha Kitt guest stars on "The Nanny" episode, "A Pup In Paris".

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1997_Eartha Kitt Interviewed by local talk show hostess Boo Sheppard for Orangeburg Inside Out.

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1997_Eartha Kitt is awarded The Order of the Palmetto which is considered the highest civilian honor in the State of South Carolina. It recognizes a person's lifetime achievements and contributions to the State of South Carolina.

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1999_Kitt Shapiro with her mother, Eartha Kitt for LIFE Magazine January 5. Photo by Marion Curtis.

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2001_Eartha Kitt and Ken Paulson on "Speaking Freely".

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2003_Eartha Kitt performing at the Holiday Celebration from Broadway to benefit the Actors Fund December 15, in New York City.

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2004_Eartha Kitt attends the 2nd Annual TV Land Awards held on March 7, at The Hollywood Palladium, in Hollywood, California.

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2005_Eartha Kitt poses prior to riding in the 2005 Hollywood Christmas Parade on November 27, in Hollywood, California.

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2007_Eartha Kitt.

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2008_Eartha Kitt in a reflective pose. Photo by Duane Michals.

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Eartha Kitt "Walk of Fame" star in Hollywood.

Books

Books

1956_Thursday's Child by Eartha Kitt. Published by Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York.

Books

Books

1961_America's Mistress_The Life and Times of Eartha Kitt. by John Williams.

Books

Books

1976_AutoBiography by Eartha Kitt.

Books

Books

2001_Rejuvenate!_It's Never Too Late. by Eartha Kitt.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1945_Carib Song.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1945_Bal Nègre.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1948_Caribbean Rhapsody.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1952_New Faces of 1952.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1952_New Faces of 1952 insert.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1955_Mrs Patterson.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1955_Mrs Patterson performance photo.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1957_Shinbone Alley.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1957_Shinbone Alley performance photo.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1959_Jolly's Progress.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1965_The Owl and the Pussycat.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1967_Peg.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1970_The High Bid program cover.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1970_The High Bid performance photo with Eartha Kitt and Alison Frazer.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1972_Bunny

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1976_A Musical Jubilee.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1978_Timbuktu.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1978_Timbuktu performance photo.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1987_Follies (London Revival).

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1994_Yes.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1998_The Wizard of Oz.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

1998_The Wizard of Oz performance photo.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

2000_The Wild Party.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

2000_Cinderella.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

2003_Nine.

Broadway and Stage

Broadway and Stage

2006_Mimi le Duck.

Film

Film

1948_Casbah.

Film

Film

1951_Parigi è sempre Parigi.

Film

Film

1954_New Faces.

Film

Film

1957_The Mark of the Hawk.

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Film

1958_St. Louis Blues.

Film

Film

1958_Anna Lucasta.

Film

Film

1965_Uncle Tom's Cabin.

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Film

1965_Synanon.

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Film

1971_Up the Chastity Belt.

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Film

1975_Friday Foster.

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Film

1979_Butterflies in Heat.

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Film

1985_The Serpent Warriors.

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Film

1987_Master of Dragonard Hill.

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Film

1987_Dragonard.

Film

Film

1987_The Pink Chiquitas.

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Film

1989_Erik the Viking.

Film

Film

1990_Living Doll.

Film

Film

1991_Ernest Scared Stupid.

Film

Film

1992_Boomerang.

Film

Film

1993_Fatal Instinct.

Film

Film

1996_Harriet the Spy.

Film

Film

1997_Ill Gotten Gains.

Film

Film

1998_I Woke Up Early the Day I Died.

Film

Film

1998_The Jungle Book_Mowgli's Story.

Film

Film

2000_The Emperor's New Groove.

Film

Film

2002_Anything But Love.

Film

Film

2003_Holes.

Film

Film

2005_Preaching to the Choir.

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Film

2005_Kronk's New Groove.

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Film

2007_And Then Came Love.

Audio

Audio

1953_Leonard Sillman's New Faces Of 1952 front cover.

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1953_Leonard Sillman's New Faces Of 1952 rear cover.

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1953_Leonard Sillman's New Faces Of 1952 side 01.

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1953_Leonard Sillman's New Faces Of 1952 side 02.

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1953_RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt front cover.

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1953_RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt rear cover.

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1953_RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt side 01.

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1953_RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt side 02.

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1954_Leonard Sillman presents Mrs. Patterson (Original Cast Recording) front cover

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1954_Leonard Sillman presents Mrs. Patterson (Original Cast Recording) rear cover

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1954_Leonard Sillman presents Mrs. Patterson (Original Cast Recording) side 01

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1954_Leonard Sillman presents Mrs. Patterson (Original Cast Recording) side 01

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1954_Sings Songs from "New Faces" (EP) front cover.

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1954_Sings Songs from "New Faces" (EP) rear cover.

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1954_Sings Songs from "New Faces" (EP) side 01.

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1954_Sings Songs from "New Faces" (EP) side 02.

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1955_Down to Eartha front cover.

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1955_Down to Eartha rear cover.

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1955_Down to Eartha side 01.

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1955_Down to Eartha side 02.

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1955_That Bad Eartha (EP) front cover.

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1955_That Bad Eartha (EP) rear cover.

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1955_That Bad Eartha (EP) side 01.

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1955_That Bad Eartha (EP) side 02.

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1955_Down to Eartha (EP) front cover.

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1955_Down to Eartha (EP) rear cover.

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1955_Down to Eartha (EP) side 01.

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1955_Down to Eartha (EP) side 02.

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1956_That Bad Eartha front cover.

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1956_That Bad Eartha rear cover.

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1956_That Bad Eartha side 01.

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1956_That Bad Eartha side 02.

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1956_Thursday's Child front cover.

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1956_Thursday's Child rear cover.

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1956_Thursday's Child side 01.

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1956_Thursday's Child side 02.

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1956_Just an Old Fashioned Girl (EP) front cover.

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1956_Just an Old Fashioned Girl (EP) rear cover.

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1956_Just an Old Fashioned Girl (EP) side 01.

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1956_Just an Old Fashioned Girl (EP) side 02.

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1956_Thursday's Child (EP) front cover.

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1956_Thursday's Child (EP) rear cover.

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1956_Thursday's Child (EP) side 01.

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1956_Thursday's Child (EP) side 02.

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1956_Gold N Kitt (EP) front cover.

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1956_Gold N Kitt (EP) rear cover.

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1956_Gold N Kitt (EP) side 01.

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1956_Gold N Kitt (EP) side 02.

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1958_St. Louis Blues front cover.

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1958_St. Louis Blues rear cover.

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1958_St. Louis Blues side 01.

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1958_St. Louis Blues side 02.

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1959_The Fabulous Eartha front cover.

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1959_The Fabulous Eartha rear cover.

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1959_The Fabulous Eartha side 01.

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1959_The Fabulous Eartha side 02.

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1959_That Blue Eartha (EP) front cover.

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1959_That Blue Eartha (EP) front cover with vinyl.

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1959_Just Eartha (EP) front cover.

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1959_Just Eartha (EP) rear cover.

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1959_Just Eartha (EP) side 01.

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1959_Just Eartha (EP) side 02.

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1960_Revisited front cover.

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1960_Revisited rear cover.

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1960_Revisited side 01.

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1960_Revisited side 02.

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1962_Bad But Beautiful front cover.

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1962_Bad But Beautiful rear cover.

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1962_Bad But Beautiful side 01.

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1962_Bad But Beautiful side 02.

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1962_The Romantic Eartha front cover.

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1962_The Romantic Eartha rear cover.

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1962_The Romantic Eartha side 01.

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1962_The Romantic Eartha side 02.

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1963_C'est Si Bon, Live in Tivoli front cover.

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1963_C'est Si Bon, Live in Tivoli rear cover.

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1965_Love For Sale front cover.

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1965_Love For Sale rear cover.

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1965_Love For Sale side 01.

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1965_Love For Sale side 02.

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1965_Canta En Español/Sings In Spanish front cover.

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1965_Canta En Español/Sings In Spanish rear cover.

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1965_Canta En Español/Sings In Spanish side 01.

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1965_Canta En Español/Sings In Spanish side 02.

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1965_Eartha Kitt Live at The Plaza front cover.

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1965_Eartha Kitt Live at The Plaza rear cover.

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1965_Eartha Kitt Live at The Plaza side 01.

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1965_Eartha Kitt Live at The Plaza side 02.

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1968_ Folk Tales Of The Tribes Of Africa front cover.

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1968_Black Pioneers in American History front cover.

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1970_Sentimental Eartha front cover.

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1970_Sentimental Eartha rear cover.

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1970_Sentimental Eartha side 01.

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1970_Sentimental Eartha side 02.

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1984_I Love Men front cover.

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1984_I Love Men rear cover.

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1984_I Love Men side 01.

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1984_I Love Men side 02.

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1985_Swing Disques Collection front cover.

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1985_Swing Disques Collection rear cover.

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1989_I'm Still Here front cover.

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1989_I'm Still Here rear caddy.

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1989_I'm Still Here CD face.

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1990_Live In London front cover.

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1990_Live In London Foldout photo 01.

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1990_Live In London Foldout photo 02.

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1990_Live In London Foldout photos.

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1990_Live In London inside credit listing.

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1990_Live In London inside foldout.

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1990_Live In London inside track list.

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1990_Live In London rear caddy.

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1990_Live In London CD face disc 01.

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1990_Live In London CD face disc 02.

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1991_Thinking Jazz front cover.

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1991_Thinking Jazz rear cover 01.

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1991_Thinking Jazz rear cover 02.

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1991_Thinking Jazz CD face.

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1992_Standards/Live front cover.

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1992_Standards/Live rear cover.

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1994_Back in Business front cover.

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1994_Back in Business rear cover.

1995_The Most Exciting Women in the World front cover.

1995_The Most Exciting Women in the World rear cover.

1995_The Most Exciting Women in the World CD face.

1995_The Most Exciting Women in the World front cover Video CD.

1995_The Most Exciting Women in the World rear cover Video CD.

1999_Thinking Jazz (German re-release) front cover.

1999_Thinking Jazz (German re-release) rear cover.

2006_Live from the Cafe Carlyle front cover.

2006_Live from the Cafe Carlyle rear cover.

2008_Live At The Cheltenham Jazz Festival front cover.

2008_Live At The Cheltenham Jazz Festival rear cover.

2008_Live At The Cheltenham Jazz Festival CD face.

2008_Live At The Cheltenham Jazz Festival front cover.

2008_Live At The Cheltenham Jazz Festival inside foldout.

2008_Live At The Cheltenham Jazz Festival rear cover.

2008_Live At The Cheltenham Jazz Festival DVD face.

There are many stories of talented people growing up with the guidance and support of family and friends who see that hint of greatness and believe it is something worth investing in. These stories are wonderful and heart warming to hear leaving one with a sense of replenished faith in human kindness. The other side of this is the story of that person who must rise up alone to defeat all odds against them and claw their way out of the worst of conditions to forge a better life for themselves.

 

Because of circumstances beyond her control during a time in cultural history Eartha Kitt was deemed a mistake and of no value. But this woman would survive and she would work hard her entire life to redefine herself and develop her talents, constantly changing and adapting to the times and seasons. She did this with grace, strength, integrity, and honor never losing sight of the place in this world she had carved out for herself to occupy.

 

After months of research and studying her incredible life and career I have come away with the greatest of respect and admiration and I would have to say in my opinion she is the most accomplished talent this state has yet produced. A very special Thank you to Kitt Shapiro for giving me permission to create this page and also to Jonathan Thompson and the generous folks at Freedom Forum for allowing the use of their "Speaking Freely" episode with Eartha Kitt.

Exerts from the National Visionary Leadership Project website:

Award-winning singer, actress, author, and activist Eartha Kitt was an international star. Her distinctive voice enthralled audiences for more than 50 years and she was one of only a handful of performers to contend for entertainment's "Triple Crown" with two Emmy Awards and nominations for three Tony Awards and two Grammys. Kitt sang in ten different languages, had performed in over 100 countries and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 

Eartha Mae Keith was born on a cotton plantation near the small town of North, South Carolina on January 17, 1927. Her mother Annie Mae Keith was of Cherokee and African descent. Though she had little knowledge of her father, it was reported that he was a son of the owner of the farm where she had been born. Eartha's mother, Annie Mae Keith (later Annie Mae Riley), soon went to live with a black man who refused to accept Eartha because of her relatively pale complexion; a relative named Aunt Rosa, in whose household she was abused, raised her. After the death of Annie Mae, Eartha was sent to live with another relative named Mamie Kitt in Harlem, New York City. There, she was given the chance to take piano lessons and sing at church. Encouraged by a teacher, she was introduced to dramatics to help with her shyness. Kitt found she had a passion to perform. She was accepted into the Metropolitan Vocational High School (later renamed the High School of Performing Arts).

 

At 16, Kitt auditioned for the Katherine Dunham School of Dance and Theater. She won a scholarship and landed a role with the Dunham dance troupe as a featured dancer and vocalist. Kitt had a number of firsts with the Dunham troupe, including her Broadway debut in "Blue Holiday" in 1945 and her 1948 film debut in "Casbah."

 

In 1948, before Kitt's 20th birthday, she performed in the worldwide tour of "Blue Holiday." Suddenly Kitt's exotic looks, which had caused her so much pain, became a distinctive asset. French and English critics singled her out for her unique appearance. Kitt cultivated her stage persona as a sultry and sophisticated femme fatale. In 1950, Kitt quit the Dunham troupe for solo club engagements in Paris. Her show prompted Orson Welles to call her "the most exciting woman alive." Welles cast Kitt as Helen of Troy in a stage production called "Time Runs," an adaptation of "Faust."

 

Throughout the rest of the 1950s and early 1960s, Kitt worked in film, television and on nightclub stages. In 1951, Kitt returned to New York to perform her nightclub act. The following year she starred in a stage revue titled, "New Faces of 1952." That success led to a recording contract with RCA Victor. A number of hit singles shot up the charts including "Santa Baby" and "I Want to Be Evil."

 

Kitt starred in the Broadway play, "Mrs. Patterson" in 1954, for which she received her first Tony nomination. Kitt began to make appearances on television variety programs and wrote the first of her three autobiographies, "Thursday's Child," in 1956. In 1958, Kitt made her feature film debut opposite Sidney Poitier in "The Mark of the Hawk." Her film career in Hollywood took off with roles in "St. Louis Blues" in 1958 and "Anna Lucasta" in 1959.

 

In 1960, Kitt wed William McDonald and the following year gave birth to her only child, a daughter named Kitt. As the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum in the 1960s, Kitt took steps to champion the cause. She demanded a requirement be written into her contracts that she would not perform before segregated audiences. Kitt traveled with a tuxedo, and if needed, would ask her manager to "grab a bus boy," to integrate the audience.

 

Kitt and her husband divorced in 1965. She continued to appear on television and earned an Emmy nomination for her appearance in "I Spy." In 1967, she played "Catwoman" in the television series "Batman," where her signature purr became world renowned. Kitt also toured the nation and visited youth groups as she traveled. In light of those efforts, in 1968, Kitt was invited to the White House with other representatives of social action programs on the topic of juvenile delinquency. During the luncheon, Kitt stridently voiced her opinion related to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam which reportedly prompted orders for the Secret Service, FBI and CIA to prepare a dossier on Eartha Kitt. Although Kitt was cleared of any subversive actions, her contracts for upcoming engagements in the U.S. were canceled. Kitt continued, however, to work abroad. In 1974, Kitt returned to the United States and gave a smash hit concert at Carnegie Hall. She wrote a second autobiography entitled "Alone With Me," in 1976. And in 1978, President Jimmy Carter invited her back to the White House. That same year, director Geoffrey Holder cast her in his Broadway musical, "Timbuktu," for which she received her second Tony nomination.

 

In 1981, filmmaker Christian Blackwood trained his camera on Kitt for a documentary film, "All By Myself." In 1989, Kitt composed a third volume of her life story, "I'm Still Here: Confessions of a Sex Kitten," and in 2001, her fourth book, the best-seller "Rejuvenate! (It's Never Too Late)," was published. Also in 2001, Kitt received a Tony and Drama Desk nomination for her role as Dolores in George Wolfe's "The Wild Party." Kitt then starred in national tours of "The Wizard of Oz" and Rogers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella." In December 2003, Kitt wowed audiences as Liliane Le Fleur in the revival of the musical "Nine." In December 2004, Kitt appeared as the Fairy Godmother in the New York City Opera production of "Cinderella" at the Lincoln Center. In 2006, Kitt starred in the off-Broadway production of "Mimi Le Duck."

 

Although she was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006, Kitt continued to perform. Singing engagements included appearances with The Atlanta Symphony, The Portland Symphony, Detroit's Music Hall, Washington, DC's Blues Alley, Seattle's Jazz Alley, the 51st Annual JVC Newport Jazz Festival and the Miami Beach JVC Jazz Festival. On January 17 2007, Miss Kitt turned eighty years old and marked the occasion at Carnegie Hall with a celebratory concert, JVC Jazz presents "Eartha Kitt and Friends." 

 

Also in 2007, Kitt performed in the movie "Somebody Like You," and lent her sultry voice to "Madagascar Two," released in 2008. She also played "Yzma," the villain, in the Disney animated feature "The Emperor's New Groove" and the Disney Channel series "The Emperor's New School," for which she won Emmy Awards in 2007 and 2008.

 

Also in 2008, NVLP paid tribute to Kitt during its Wisdom Award Celebration. Kitt was honored for her leadership and contributions to the performing arts, along with dancer/choreographer Carmen de Lavallade; Grammy-winning gospel and soul music recording artist Cissy Houston; and composer, arranger, record and film producer, Quincy Jones. The next day, Kitt met with students from the Schomburg Center Junior Scholars Program in Harlem, New York as part of an NVLP educational outreach program. 


On December 25, 2008 Kitt's long battle with cancer ended. She was 81. She is survived by her daughter, Kitt Shapiro and two grandchildren.

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Photo Album

1959_Eartha Kitt drinking honey before a vocal performance.