Barnett was hailed by the media in 1933 as the "The New Negro Woman" after she played a widowed housewife in "Gold Diggers of 1933," because up to then black actors had been relegated to roles as domestic servants, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday.
In "Flying Down to Rio," which in 1933 paired Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers for the first time, Barnett sang the Oscar-nominated "The Carioca."
In 1942, she played "Bess" in the Broadway revival of George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess."
Later she held prominent roles National Council of Negro Women, the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Field Museum and the DuSable Museum.
Born Nov. 5, 1901, in Weimer, Texas, she was the only child of the Rev. Freeman F. Moten and Ida Mae Norman.
She married at age 17 and had three children, but later divorced. In 1934, she married Claude Barnett, head of the Associated Negro Press who died in 1967.
Barnett is survived by her 83-year-old daughter, Sue Ish, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Barnett, who died Friday, requested no funeral be held.