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Singer Lena Horne

Black women entertainers have and continue to be leaders in movements that forward civil rights for all people. Nina Simone, Josephine Baker, Ruby Dee, Dorothy Dandridge, Lorraine Hansberry, Ntozake Shange, and others, were creative women who never let an opportunity pass to use their craft to forward the issues of human and civil rights. Though they were icons of the film, music, literary and theatre worlds, they were also visible women leaders to be counted on when the world needed their music, plays, and performances to shed light on the inequities that permeated their fame and often halted their fortunes.

We cannot let the light fade from sight when it comes to the differences these women made in the world and what they sacrificed.

Black and White photogragph of singer and actress Lena Horne, a light-skinned black woman, holding a folder and singing with her hand raised
Portrait of Lena Horne between 1946-1948 courtesy Library of Congress

Lena Horne was an American dancer, actress, singer, and civil rights activist. Over the course of seventy years, Ms. Horne appeared in film, television, and theatre and took part in the transformative March on Washington in 1963 as an advocate for human rights. Her one-woman show Lena Horne: The Lady and her Music ran for more than 300 performances on Broadway and she continued her recording career into the 1990s, well into her seventies. If she ever faded from view, the lights are back on as she will become the first Black woman to have a Broadway theater named in her honor.

If you are familiar with Broadway theaters then you are familiar with the plethora of names in lights that honor white men on the Great White Way - Richard Rogers, Eugene O'Neill, Al Hirshfeld, Booth, Broadhurst, and the list continues. In 2005, the Signature Theatre was renamed in honor of August Wilson, and now the Brooks Atkinson Theatre will be renamed to honor Lena Horne, making this the first time in history that a Broadway theatre will carry the name of a Black woman.

This fall, the Nederlander organization, aka giants in the Broadway theatre game, will host a ceremony renaming the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in honor of Tony-Award Winner, Lena Horne.

Your struggle is not lost on us Ms. Horne and we honor all that you did and all that you have ever represented as a voice for the often voiceless. Although your physical presence has faded, your impact is greater than ever. Congratulations to the first Black woman to have her name in lights, in perpetuity, on Broadway!


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