Diana Ross, the daughter of Ernestine (née Moten) (January 27, 1916 – October 9, 1984), a schoolteacher, and Fred Ross, Sr. (July 4, 1920 – November 21, 2007), a former United States Army soldier, was born at Hutzel Women's Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Ross said that she did not see her father until he returned from serving in World War II. Much has been made of whether her first name ends in an "a" or an "e". According to Ross, her mother actually named her "Diane" but a clerical error resulted in her name being recorded as "Diana" on her birth certificate. She always went by "Diane" at home and at school. Her high school yearbook listed her as "Diana" and as early as 1963, when The Supremes released their first album, she was listed in the liner notes as "Diana". At The Supremes' first Copacabana engagement in 1965, she introduced herself to the audience as "Diane", but later that year she started introducing herself as "Diana". Her intimates still call her "Diane".
After living on Belmont Road in Detroit's North End for several years, Ross's family settled on St. Antoine Street in the Brewster-Douglass housing projects on Ross' fourteenth birthday in 1958. Ross aspired to be a fashion designer, and studied design, millinery, pattern-making and seamstress skills while attending Cass Technical High School, a four-year college preparatory magnet school, in downtown Detroit. In her late teens, Ross worked at Hudson's Department Store where, it was claimed in biographies, that she was the first black employee "allowed outside the kitchen". Ross graduated in January 1962, one semester earlier than her classmates. Ross' parents had a difficult marriage and separated when Ross was still in her teens.