Why Eartha Kitt Being Blacklisted Still Stings

Why Eartha Kitt Being Blacklisted Still Stings

Imagine being blacklisted by the government for sharing your opinion.

BUST Magazine

Imagine-- you're at the height of your career, an internationally acclaimed music star, and just beginning your stage and film career, when all of the sudden, you're reading the newspaper, which deemed you a, "Sadistic nymphomaniac whose escapades and loose morals were the talk of Paris." Next thing you know, you're struggling to find work in America, based on false claims made by the CIA and FBI, all because you hurt the first lady's feelings.

This is exactly what happened to Eartha Kitt, famous American singer, actress, dancer, activist, voice actress, and comedian, known to most for her smash hits Santa Baby, I Want To Be Evil, and may be known to most people of my generation as the voice Yzma in The Emperor's New Groove. She was an unapologetic, with an immense amount of sex appeal, leaving a mark on the entertainment industry unlike any other. You may not be as familiar with her as some other celebrities of her generation as a result of her being blackballed.

In 1968, Eartha Kitt was invited to a luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson. The first lady was taken aback by Eartha's response to her asking about the Vietnam War.

"You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. They rebel in the street. They don't want to go to school because they're going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam," she explained to the first lady and fifty other woman who'd been invited to the luncheon. "Vietnam is the main reason we are having trouble with the youth of America. It is a war without explanation or reason.”

The first lady reportedly burst into tears, and the president was furious upon discovering this. Lyndon B. Johnson demanded she be investigated, and the FBI and CIA would deem her an "enemy" to Johnson and his successors. While some of the media did praise her for speaking out against the Vietnam War, most reviled Kitt, swamping her with racist and misogynistic judgements. She was basically forced into exile, and continued her career in Europe before returning to America nearly a decade later.

This was a result of her simply speaking her mind. This is why her being blacklisted still leaves a sour taste in my mouth, even to this day.

A young outspoken, black woman just beginning her career suddenly sees her world coming down because she was simply sharing her opinion. America's true colors were shown during this time, showing just how lowly they viewed black people and women, and especially the black woman. She was plagued by the angry black woman narrative that many of us know all too well, and I couldn't help but think, what if this had been me?

I can empathize with Miss Kitt to an extent, as I consider myself an activist as well, but what if I were to be blacklisted by the government because I hurt an older white woman's feelings because of my opinion? An opinion that I was asked to share? It seems surreal to me.

Even to this day, I don't believe the government ever offered her an official apology, which makes the entire situation even more bizarre to me. I will continue to admire and applaud Eartha Kitt for her unapologeticness through the entire ordeal, and the contributions she did make when she was alive. She was incredible woman who shouldn't be forgotten.

"My recipe for life is not being afraid of myself, afraid of what I think or of my opinions." -Eartha Kitt

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