His Eye is on the Sparrow

The World of Ethel Waters: A Library List Inspired by ETC’s His Eye is on the Sparrow

Blues and Broadway take the stage as Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati presents the regional premiere of Larry Parr’s His Eye is on the Sparrow, the powerful, heartbreaking, and uplifting account of the iconic Ethel Waters. Overcoming a spirit-breaking childhood and racial injustice, Waters became a legendary jazz and blues singer, Broadway pioneer, and Oscar-nominated actress. This one-woman musical biography stars local actress Torie Wiggins and features some of Waters’s most famous musical numbers. Playing April 24-May 19, 2018.

To learn more about the life and legacy of this leading lady, stop by The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to check out the following titles:



51EwGwbURQL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_His Eye is on the Sparrow: an autobiography by Ethel Waters with Charles Samuels

Ethel Waters’s His Eye is on the Sparrow stands as perhaps the greatest autobiography of a black female performer, capturing both the horror and the joy of the African American woman’s experience through the often bitter yet always forgiving voice of an indomitable spirit. This edition is supplemented with a new historical preface and over a dozen photographs.








382002529.0.m.1To Me It’s Wonderful by Ethel Waters

A high-spirited singer with an engaging voice, Ethel Waters became a pioneer among black female artists through great determination and inner drive. In her autobiography His Eye is on the Sparrow, Waters recounts how the troubles of her appalling childhood and troubled early  life were overcome through grit and the application of her great talent. In To Me It’s Wonderful, the second part of her autobiography, Waters continues her fascinating and inspirational story toward the sunset of her long and illustrious life.






51AlmA0KuIL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of African American History Told by Those Who Lived It edited by Herb Boyd

Offering a wealth of historical detail and emotion, Autobiography of a People is a stunning accomplishment that brings African American history to life in all its tragedy and triumph, in a brilliant testament to the black experience in America. The book boasts an astounding roster of important historical and intellectual figures, writers and religious leaders, such as Phyllis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., General Colin Powell, and Angela Davis, as well as a generous selection of riveting accounts from ordinary people. The misery of slavery, the bloodshed of several American wars, and the struggle for civil rights are just some of the pivotal experiences described in vivid detail throughout the book. Linked by editor Herb Boyd’s informative narrative bridges, these powerful voices from the past and present combine to create a compelling portrait of how African Americans have survived⎯and shaped⎯some of the most important events in U.S. history.




98de36e2bd90f2dd819bd35354df431b--harlem-renaissance-picture-booksRhapsodies in Black: Music and Words from the Harlem Renaissance

Rhapsodies in Black: Music and Words From the Harlem Renaissance celebrates the Harlem of the ’20s and ’30s, when the city was thriving with creativity and brilliance, not just in music, but in literature, art, drama, and poetry. Rhapsodies in Black recreates that time period, providing seminal recordings and augmenting them with poetry readings (including selections read by such contemporary artists as Chuck D, Quincy Jones, Ice-T, LeVar Burton, Alfre Woodard, Angela Bassett, and Darius Rucker), plus a 100-page booklet filled with poetry, testimonials, and art. It all adds up to a lively history lesson that’s nearly overwhelming in its scope.


51c9WYOdI0L._SY355_The Favourite Songs of Ethel Waters

This best-of album features the versatile 20th-century singer and actress Ethel Waters, who is heard here with 1930s and 1940s recordings of some of her most popular pieces. Among the tracks are the title song from the hit musical CABIN IN THE SKY, in which she starred in both theater and movie versions; W.C. Handy’s “St Louis Blues,” which she was reputed to have been the first to perform; and a show-stopping version of Irving Berlin’s “Supper Time.”



d0a87e13-f587-4960-937e-e990f2906e73_1.f1c00271f2899065f86e2f600cb7aca2Broadway, The American Musical

The PBS extravaganza Broadway: The American Musical is both an intriguing social history and perfect collection of performance snippets, anecdotes and scholarly wisdom for lovers of musical theater. The documentary explores Broadway’s history roughly chronologically, from the vaudeville shows and operettas that held sway at the beginning of the 20th century to such 21st-century extravaganzas as Hairspray and Wicked. Along the way, there are segments profiling many of the most important stars, composers, lyricists, and directors the American stage has produced. The collection also functions as a sort of primer on musical theater with composers, directors, and performers analyzing why certain moments proved effective or trailblazing.

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County offers Broadway, the American Musical in multiple formats.




28815_1_largeCabin in the Sky directed by Vincente Minnelli

In this all-star screen adaptation of the successful Broadway play, Little Joe is seriously wounded in a barroom fight when his gambling luck runs out. His pious wife, Petunia, prays for him to have a second chance, but as Joe recovers from the fight, God’s General and Lucifer, Jr. begin the battle for his soul. Joe is torn between his love for Petunia and the wiles of good-time bad girl Georgia Brown. Cabin in the Sky (1943) was the first all-black musical in nearly fourteen years and only the fourth all-black film by a major studio since the coming of sound. It was also director Vincente Minnelli’s first feature film.






51K3MDBMZKL._SY445_Pinky directed by Elia Kazan

In this poignant drama, Pinky, a young nurse, returns to her small southern hometown in Mississippi, but the trip is bittersweet one. Having been educated in the North, Pinky is now engaged to a white doctor who doesn’t know that she is part black. Her grandmother is a proud black woman who is less than happy to learn that Pinky’s fiancé is white. In the midst of family pressures, Pinky’s friendship with a southern aristocrat, Miss Em, is cause for more scandal. When Miss Em dies and leaves Pinky her house, pinky is shunned by both blacks and whites. Featuring three indelible Oscar-nominated performances from Jeanne Crain, Ethel Barrymore and Ethel Waters, Pinky shows the effects of bigotry on a family and community.

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