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Black Activists - Lena Horne

Updated on February 6, 2012

Lena Horne was born June 30, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York and died May 9, 2010 in New York, New York. Lena Horne is best known as an entertainer; in fact she was one of the most popular African American entertainers of the 20thcentury. Lena Horne was more than just an entertainer though she was a beautiful woman with acommanding stage presence. Horne was multitalented; a singer, a dancer and an actress.


Lena Horne had ambitions of becoming a performer at a very early age.Horne’s well established middle class family felt that she should have loftier goals.Horne’s family had members that held college degrees and worked in distinguished organizations so they felt that she could much more than a performer.During her childhood Lena Horne moved around quite a bit making it difficult for her to really focus on anything specific in school.Against her family’s wishes she didn’t finish high school and the age of 16 was hired to dance at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem.


As an actress Lena Horne was amazing, receiving accolades and setting records as an African American actress in a racist climate.When Lena Horne performed she refused to perform for segregated audiences and would make sure that if audiences were segregated that she gave a front row performance for the African Americans that were in the audience.Horne also refused toplay roles that stereotyped African American women. At one point in her career Horne wasthe highest-paid African American entertainer in the United States. She was signed to a seven-year contract with the movie studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM). Horne was the first black performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio. Horne made her debut in the film Panama Hattie performing the title song Stormy Weather. Because of her race Lena Horne never had a leading role. Horne was blacklisted during the 1950s for her political views and her work as an activist. In her later years Horne received the honor of the longest-running solo performance a record she still hold for the show Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music. The show was a hit and she received a special Tony award as well as two Grammy Awards for the show.


Lena Horne’s life was a constant struggle even at the height of her fame where she was subjected to racial discrimination because she was Black. Horne was also subjected to racial pressure because of her marriage to the White bandleader Lennie Hayton which they tried to keep secret to avoid discrimination and racism. Horne was involved with the Civil Rights movement working with such stars as Paul Robeson in the struggle for equality.Horne also worked with numerous groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the National Council of Negro Women. Horne participated in the March on Washington in 1963, performed at rallies in the South and elsewhere, and worked on behalf of various organizations. Horne even worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws.After the war Horne helped Japanese Americans fight discrimination as well. Horne focused on helping those who were being oppressed.

Lena Horne was more than just an amazing performer she was a distinguished woman.Horne received many awards and accolades throughout her life for many different things; acting, singing, dancing and for being a humanitarian. Lena Horne was an incredible woman who touched many people. This was evident at her death where thousands of people gathered to mourn this incredible woman.


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    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 5 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you Laurinzo!

    • Laurinzo Scott profile image

      Live To Write 5 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

      Yes an incredible and worthy tribute to an incredible lady... thank you for writing this one.

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 6 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you pmc and jdove!! I enjoyed learning more about Lena Horne. An incredible woman!

    • JDove-Miller profile image

      JDove-Miller 6 years ago from YOUNGSVILLE

      You are helping me stroll down MEMORY LANE for real. Thanks.

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 6 years ago from Utah

      Great hub. Ms. Horne was truly more than a great talent, but an even better humanitarian. Voted up, marked useful and interesting.

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 6 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you Nan! She was truly amazing.

    • Nan Mynatt profile image

      Nan Mynatt 6 years ago from Illinois

      I voted you up on this one. Lena Horne was truly a beautiful woman and outstanding performer. She was one of a kind.