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Kitt’s uncertain lineage

Eartha Kitt is still searching for her true identity, says James Bone in the London Times. The legendary diva was born into abject poverty in South Carolina 81 years ago. She was at first raised by a woman named Anna Mae, who she assumed was her mother. B

Eartha Kitt is still searching for her true identity, says James Bone in the London Times. The legendary diva was born into abject poverty in South Carolina 81 years ago. She was at first raised by a woman named Anna Mae, who she assumed was her mother. But then Anna Mae moved in with a new boyfriend, and he rejected Eartha. “‘I do not want that yella gal in my house,’” she remembers him saying. “‘Yella,’” she explains, was a reference to her lighter skin; her real mother, she later learned, “was taken advantage of” by the son of a white plantation owner and had given up Eartha “out of shame.” When Kitt was 8, Anna Mae shipped her off to Harlem to stay with “Aunt Mamie.” She now believes Mamie actually was her mother. In recent years, Kitt has been trying to put all the pieces together. She located her birth certificate and learned that her name was “Eartha Mae Keith” and that she was a year younger than she thought. She also identified relatives of the man she believes was her father, though they want nothing to do with her. Her lifelong uncertainty over her lineage, she says, has given her the resolve to forge her own identity. “I do not have an act. Eartha Kitt is my act,” she said. “I want to be whoever Eartha Kitt is until the gods take me wherever they take me.”

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