Fitzgerald, Ella

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Fitzgerald's birth parents both died when she was a child; she never knew her father and her mother died about 1935. Some sources state that she earlier ran away from her abusive step-father and lived on the streets. After her mother's death she was placed in an orphanage.

In 1934 she won her first talent contest, at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem. She was "discovered" by Chick Webb, who was looking for a new singer, and he and his wife then fostered and eventually legally adopted her. Webb died in 1939. Soon she was one of the most celebrated singers and Black women in the world. In later life she suffered seriously from diabetes; in 1993 both legs were amputated because of its effects.


Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1993-97
Who's Who in America, 1996
"Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song," in: Great Women in the Struggle, edited by Toyomi Igus. (Orange: Just Us Books, 1991) (Book of Black Heroes; vol. 2)
Kliment, Bud. Ella Fitzgerald. (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988) (Black Americans of Achievement)


20th Century
Music and Dance
Multiple or Unspecified
Medical Problems, Chronic Illness
School-age Years, Adolescence
Orphaned (Both Parents)
Child Ran Away or Left Home to Work
Priest, Religious, Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Patron, Apprentice Master or Owner
Others ("Strangers")
Wealthy, Famous, Noble or Divine Adoptive or Foster Families
Customary or Traditional Adoption, Informal and Extra-Legal Care
Street Children, Children Who Grew up Without Adult Supervision (at Least Temporarily), or Ran Away
Institutional Care
Parent(s) Died, Disappeared or Became Incapacitated
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