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Marilyn Elizabeth Perry

social welfare and community leader and businesswoman, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the daughter of Mollie Chapman, a former slave, and an unnamed white man of means. She was adopted shortly after birth by freed slaves Lafayette White, a drayman and Civil War veteran, and Clara English, a domestic and cook. Lafayette White died when Eartha was five. Throughout her childhood Clara made Eartha feel as though God had chosen her for a special mission. Listening to stories of hardships that Clara endured as a slave and watching her mother's humanitarian contributions to Jacksonville's “Black Bottom” community convinced Eartha White that she too would someday make a difference in the African American community.

When yellow fever struck Jacksonville in 1893, White went to New York City, where she studied hairdressing and manicuring and attended Madame Thurber's National Conservatory of Music. During the 1895–1896 season White toured worldwide ...