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Eartha Mary Magdalene White was born on this date in 1876. She was an African American vocalist, educator, administrator, and humanitarian.
She was born in Jacksonville, FL, and raised by her adoptive, altruistic mother, Clara English White. Her adoptive father, Lafayette, died in 1881 when she was five. In 1893, White graduated from Stanton School and moved to New York City. She attended the Madam Hall Beauty School and the National Conservatory of Music, eventually working with the Oriental American Opera Company. A lyric soprano, she sang under the direction of J. Rosamond Johnson performed on Broadway and with her ensemble traveled throughout the United States and Europe.
Returning to Florida in 1896, she graduated from Florida Baptist Academy and taught for 16 years in Bayard, FL, and at Stanton School in Jacksonville. In the 1920s, White turned her attention to politics, working with the Republican Party to form the Colored Citizens Protective League in Jacksonville. In 1941, she and A. Philip Randolph protested job discrimination, and she became an influential force in Jacksonville’s social welfare. White also focused on prison inmates and the establishment of an orphanage for African American children.
She created a home for unwed mothers, a nursery for children of working mothers, a tuberculosis rest home, and, in 1902, a nursing home for elderly African Americans. She organized the Boys' Improvement Club in 1904 and the Clara White Mission for the Indigent in 1928. A major achievement and fulfillment of a lifelong dream was the dedication of the Eartha M. M. White Nursing Home in 1967 to replace the Mercy Hospital for the Aged. In 1970, at the age of 94, she received national recognition by being named the recipient of the 1970 Lane Bryant Award for Volunteer Service.
In 1971, White was appointed to the President's National Center for Voluntary Action. Eartha White died of heart failure at age 97 on January 18, 1974.
Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York