"Curiosity piqued, [Phyllis] Fletcher began looking for records of [Ina Ray] Hutton’s race. She started on Ancestry.com and purchased her own account on the genealogy site to do the research (she later learned that UW libraries has a subscription, too). She found census records, which become public after 72 years. (Next up is the 1940 census, to be released April 2.) She also unearthed birth certificates and a marriage license.
Fletcher examined the 1920 and 1930 census records, the two from Hutton’s lifetime that are public. She found inconsistent listings for Hutton’s race, because the Census Bureau changed the terms used for race. In the 1920 census she is listed as “mulatto,” which was then dropped in later years. Then in 1930 she is recorded as “negro.” Her parents’ records also showed inconsistencies in race.
Fletcher tried another direction to determine Hutton’s race. She used Hutton’s birth name, Odessa Cowan, to search for records of Hutton as a child.
She examined archives of the Chicago Defender, a national black newspaper in circulation since 1905, for the birth name. If the star-to-be or her family members were mentioned in this newspaper it would indicate that they were part of the black community. This turned out to be the key to revealing Hutton’s race.
Fletcher typed “Odessa Cowan” into the archive and up popped a list of articles mentioning the starlet as a child. There she was in articles about her recitals – she started her career as a tap dancer. And in 1924, the paper published a “Dancing Beauties” photo of the budding star at age 7 with two other black girls, all wearing dance costumes.” [Read the full article]
Bandleader Ina Ray Hutton (left) was born Odessa Cowan on March 13, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois. Her sister, singer June Hutton (right), was born June Cowan on August 11, 1920 (some sources say 1923).
(Both photos obtained from Fanpix.net)
This will always be my favorite vintage photo in the entire world #solovely
So do I
New York City, 1949, photo by Nina Leen for LIFE magazine
Betty Grable is I Wake Up Screaming (1941)
Ginger Rogers in Don’t Bet on Love (1933)