Ella Jane Fitzgerald was an American jazz singer and band leader. She was also a civil rights activist, using her shows to break racial barriers across the nation. In 1949, she joined the Jazz at the Philharmonic tour which targeted segregated venues. The tour made sure there was no “colored” or “white” seating and performers received equal pay and accommodations regardless of gender or race. If the conditions were not met shows were cancelled.
Fitzgerald faced discrimination throughout her career. In 1954, on her way to her concerts in Australia, she and her band members were removed from their first class seats on a Pan Am flight. She missed two of her concerts because of the delay. She later sued and won a case for racial discrimination against Pan Am.
For overcoming racial obstacles and barriers, she was recognized as a “cultural ambassador” and received America’s highest non-military honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992. In 1993, Fitzgerald established the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation focusing on charitable grants for those “at risk” and less fortunate.