CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 23, 2012 — For nearly twenty years, she warmed hearts and shared the stage with Billy Graham at his Crusades. Starting Feb. 1 and running through March 31, legendary African-American actress, singer and entertainer Ethel Waters will be celebrated at the Billy Graham Library with a special exhibit entitled “Ethel Waters: His Eye is on the Sparrow.”
“This exhibit focuses on the life of an important person to Mr. Graham and the ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,” said Debra Cordial, director of the Library. “This exhibit was so well-received when it was on display in 2009 that we decided to offer it again. We hope our guests will be encouraged and blessed in seeing how Ms. Waters used her incredible talent and high-profile platform to bring honor and glory to God.”
The exhibit will include memorabilia highlighting Ms. Waters’ early career, including her work in the Broadway musical “Mamba’s Daughters” in which she became the first African-American to star in a dramatic performance role. Also featured in the exhibit are rare photos from her years singing at Billy Graham Crusades.
An award-winning vocalist and actress, Ms. Waters began her career as a jazz singer. In 1933, she secured the lead role in “As Thousands Cheer” making her the first African-American to receive equal billing status in a Broadway musical. Ms. Waters became the second African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award and three of her songs can be found in the GRAMMY® Hall of Fame. She was also inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
She sang at her first Billy Graham Crusade 55 years ago in 1957 at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where she attended one of the meetings and rededicated herself to Christ. She appeared at many Crusades through the years, singing a song that has touched the hearts of millions: “His Eye is On the Sparrow.” Her final Crusade appearance came in August 1976 in San Diego, Calif. During her years of serving with Mr. Graham, Ms. Waters starred in “The Heart of a Rebel,” a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association World Wide Pictures film, and was honored by Mr. Graham at a 1972 dinner he held in her honor in Hollywood. Ms. Waters died in 1977.
The exhibit at The Billy Graham Library also highlights Billy Graham’s civil rights work and includes photos from various Crusades in which he spoke publicly condemning segregation, and encouraging all to come forward to accept the invitation regardless of color.
In 1962, Mr. Graham stated, “After studying the Bible and looking at the world around us, we decided back in the early 1950’s that our evangelistic Crusades would henceforward be held on a non-segregated basis. We believe that where men are standing at the foot of the cross, there are no racial barriers.”