With a multifaceted career that lasted more than 70 years, Lena Horne is a lot for many people. While some people remember Horne best for their sultry 1943 rendition of Stormy Weather, others would point to their legacy as one of the most famous actresses of the 1950s as their greatest achievement. But Horne was also a bitter supporter of civil rights.
Horne – whose parents were both from mixed black, Indian and European countries – was a pioneer both on and off the screen and worked tirelessly for herself and the civil rights movement throughout her career. Here are 10 things you may not have known about the superstar of the golden age.
. Lena Horne appeared at the age of 16 in the white-dominated Cotton Club in Harlem.
After a failed attempt to make a name for herself as an actress, Edna Louise Scottron – Lena Horne’s mother – urged her daughter to follow in her footsteps and suggested finding work at the famous New York Cotton Club. Horne got a job in the club’s choir when she was only 16 and worked there for two years. During this time she met legendary entertainers like Duke Ellington, but was forced to deal with the aggression of her all-white audience and her employers. When Miguel Rodriguez, Hornes Cuban stepfather, raised a problem with Hornes bosses because of their low pay, he was “ruthlessly beaten”.
2. As an actress Lena Horne appeared in many solo scenes – so that her films could be edited for the Mediterranean audience.
Although Horne became a household name because of her work in classic films Cabin in the sky (1943), Ziegfeld Follies (1945) and Stormy weather (1943) contained many of her musical moments lines that were not essential to Horne’s plot and solo appearances so that they could be easily removed for the audience at Jim Crow South.
3. Lena Horne performed at Cafe Society Downtown, a club that raised money for the Communist Party.
New York’s Cafe Society Downtown was the first racially integrated club in the United States and featured an impressive number of artists, including Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne. There were also a number of leftists and fundraisers for progressive purposes, both of which helped the club to be noticed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities and eventually closed.
4. The live recording Lena Horne in the Waldorf Astoria became the best-selling album by RCA by an artist.
Horne was the second black artist to appear in the Waldorf Astoria and took up residence there with a lot of humor and grace. In James Gavin’s book The life of Lena Hornethe actress said about her audience:
“You kept saying: ‘She has so much mystery. What does she think And it is so sexy. ‘ Oh God! I was not. I just didn’t really like her. I said, “I won’t let her know what I’m thinking of.” So I had this great attitude that was very well received in the night clubs. “
Aside from the great setting, recording one of their 1957 live shows, Lena Horne in the Waldorf Astoriais one of the best-selling records by a singer in the history of RCA Victor.
5. Due to the rules of segregation, aspiring star Lena Horne couldn’t even lease her own home in Los Angeles.
White impresario Felix Young (manager of Cafe Trocadero in Los Angeles) had to sign the lease for Horne’s new home, “as if he were renting it,” she said. When Horne’s neighbors found out that she was the official resident of the house, they applied to have her removed – until Humphrey Bogart entered. Horne said Bogart had “raised hell” with the parishioners and “sent a message to the house that if anyone took care of it, please let them know. “
6. Lena Horne was a member of several left groups, including the Progressive Citizens of America.
Lena Horne was not shy about her anti-fascist, anti-racist stance and became a national board member of the Progressive Citizens of America, a leftist group that included WEB DuBois and Paul Robeson as members. Hore’s membership was part of what led to her seven-year Hollywood blacklist during the 1950s Red Scare.
7. Lena Horne was awarded a humanitarian award by the NAACP, which has helped her cross Hollywood’s color lines throughout her career.
In 1983, Horne was awarded the Spingarn Medal by NAACP for her art, her humanitarian work and as a “living symbol for excellence”. The award has a prestigious history; Other recipients include Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Langston Hughes.
8. Lena Horne joined the leaders of civil rights and took part in the Martin Luther King Jr. march in Washington.
Horne was a very vocal civil rights lawyer who refused to stand up for a separate army audience, sued restaurants and theaters for discrimination, and worked with Eleanor Roosevelt on legislation against lynch law. It is therefore not surprising that she stood on stage during the 1963 March in Washington and publicly expressed her admiration for the activist Malcom X.
9. Despite the challenges she faced as a black woman in Hollywood, Lena Horne was proud of the choices she made in her career.
Although Lena Horne faced many obstacles due to the racism that pervaded American culture throughout her career, the singer, actress and activist did not regret the choices made. At the age of 80, Horne thought about her career and explained:
“My identity is now very clear to me. I am a black woman. I am free. I don’t have to be a loan anymore. I don’t have to be a symbol for anyone; I don’t have to be the first for anyone. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman Hollywood hoped to become. I am me and I am like no other. “
10. Lena Horne’s granddaughter turns her life into a television series.
In July 2020, Showtime announced that it was illuminated in green Blackbird: Lena Horne and America, a limited series about the life of Horne, created by Star Trek: Picard Creators Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet, daughter of the legendary filmmaker Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of Lena Horne.
“Bringing my grandmother’s story to the screen required cross-generational effort,” Lumet told Deadline. “Grandma passed her stories on to my mother, who is now passing them on to me so that I can pass them on to the children of our family. Lena’s story is so intimate and at the same time the story of America – America in its most honest, musical, tragic and joyful form. It is crucial now. Especially now. It was the love of my life. “