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Eartha Kitt was born Eartha Mae Keith on a cotton plantation in the tiny town North, South Carolina. Though her ancestry is somewhat uncertain, she states her mother was of African-American and Native American descent, and her father, German- or Dutch-American.
Kit was raised by Anna Mae Riley, a black woman whom she believed to be her mother, but after Riley's death, she was sent to live in New York City with Mamie Kitt, reportedly Riley's sister. Eartha Kitt believes that Mamie Kitt was her biological mother; she still has no knowledge of her father's identity, except that his surname was Kitt and that he was the son of the owner of the plantation on which she had been born.
In the 1960s television series Batman, she played Catwoman after Julie Newmar left the role.