Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald 1917-1996
Jazz Singer
Birthplace: Newport News, VA

Ella Fitzgerald is considered one of the greatest singers in jazz history. She was born in Newport News, VA, and after her father died, she moved to Yonkers, NY, with her mother. Tragically, her mother died and she was sent to an orphanage until she moved to New York City to live with her aunt. She wanted to become a dancer and loved singing. When she was 16, she won talent contests in Harlem and began singing with Chick Webb and his band at the Savoy Ballroom. The band's music director recalled, "In those days, the recording company didn't want Negroes to sing ballads...this lady opened the door for everybody else."

In 1938, she co-wrote and recorded "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," which hit the top of the charts. Her specialty, scat (singing nonsense syllables instead of words), inspired many singers. "I try to do what I think a horn would play," Fitzgerald explained. In the 1940s, Ella made the transition from swing to bebop. She began a series of songbook recordings based on classic songs by Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, and Cole Porter. She also made movies including Pete Kelly's Blues (1955) and St. Louis Blues (1958). By the 1950s, she had become an international star and collaborated with bandleaders Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie.

Ella was forced to retire because of diabetes. She earned 14 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967), the Kennedy Center Honor (1979), the National Medal of Arts (1987), and France's Commander of Arts and Letters (1990). She received many other prizes including honorary doctorates from Yale and Dartmouth. She also contributed to many charities and humanitarian causes.

Ella Fitzgerald died at the age of 78 at her home in Beverly Hills, CA, on June 15, 1996.

Black History Month  Return to the Encyclopedia
of Prominent African Americans

If you need to teach it, we have it covered.

Start your free trial to gain instant access to thousands of expertly curated worksheets, activities, and lessons created by educational publishers and teachers.

Start Your Free Trial

Follow us on:

Follow TeacherVision on Facebook
Follow TeacherVision on Google Plus


December Calendar of Events
December is full of events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum! Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event. Happy holidays!

Bullying Prevention Resources
Bullying can cause both physical and emotional harm. Put a stop to classroom bullying, with our bullying prevention resources. Learn how to recognize several forms of bullying and teasing, and discover effective techniques for dealing with and preventing bullying in school.

Conflict Resolution
Teach your students to how resolve conflict amongst themselves without resorting to name-calling, fights, and tattling.

Immigration Resources
Studying immigration brings to light the many interesting and diverse cultures in the world.