Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Edith Wilson

Edith Wilson

She was born Edith Goodall to a middle class black family in Louisville, KY, on September 2, 1896. Her ancestors included an American Vice President, John C. Breckenridge, and a woman who was the model for the Liza character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Edith Wilson entered show business in 1919 at the Park Theater in Louisville. Shortly afterwards she joined blues singer Lena Wilson and her pianist brother Danny. Edith and Danny Wilson were married and the three formed an act. Soon, Edith Wilson was introduced to Columbia Records where she was paired with Johnny Dunn's Jazz Hounds for a series of 17 recordings made in 1921 and 1922.

Edith Wilson became a major star in the New York black entertainment world. She was a member, with the famous Florence Mills, of "Lew Leslie's Plantation Review" at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. In the mid- to late '20s, Edith Wilson went to England and established herself as an international star. She appeared in non-singing roles on radio shows like Amos and Andy and in the Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall classic film “To Have and Have Not”. Around 1950, Edith Wilson assumed the character of Aunt Jemima, promoting the pancake mix for the Quaker Oats Company.

Edith Wilson retired from show business in 1963 to work as an executive secretary with Negro Actors Guild and to involve herself with other charitable, religious, and literary activities. Her last appearance was at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1980. She died on March 30, 1981 in Chicago.

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