Lena Horne broke glass ceilings for a living during the 20th century as a female performer, singer, and civil rights activist. According to CBS News, she is now the first Black woman in American history to have a Broadway theatre named in her honour.
Jenny Lumet, her granddaughter, said to People, “I didn’t anticipate how emotional it was going to be, and now I’m kind of weeping buckets.” We are a New York family, and my grandma is a Bed-Stuy native. Therefore, it means so much to have her constantly in the theatre district of New York City.
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Many of Horne’s contemporaries and those she influenced for the ceremony gathered at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, formerly the Mansfield Theatre, which now bears her name. These individuals included New York Mayor Eric Adams, Governor Kathy Hochul, who referred to Horne as a “fearless agent of change,” and actor Vanessa Williams.
According to CBS News, Williams remarked that she was a woman of colour and as beautiful as she was. She continued to experience discrimination, and she was denied specific roles. She was present at my function, and I remember crying because she meant so much to me.
Lena Horne was an actress, a singer and a civil rights activist from Brooklyn who broke down racial barriers.
This afternoon, she became the first African American woman to have a Broadway theater named after her. 🎉 pic.twitter.com/F9zFMgny1y
— City of New York (@nycgov) November 1, 2022
According to PBS, Horne began performing at the famed Cotton Club in Harlem when she was 16. She was born in Brooklyn in 1917. She made her Broadway debut in “Dance With Your Gods” the following year, which brought her to Hollywood, where she signed a seven-year deal with MGM in 1942.
Lena Horne was the first Black American to sign a deal with a significant film studio. According to Williams, Horne’s activism “came from her life experiences.” While working at Café Society in 1941, Horne gained political awareness and knowledge of Black American history. According to CBS News, Horne refused to perform for segregated audiences during World War II.
Brooklyn’s own Lena Horne was a world-class entertainer, a trailblazer, and a fearless agent for change.
The first Broadway theater to be named after a Black woman, the Lena Horne Theatre will tell her story and inspire theatergoers for generations to come. pic.twitter.com/P2nsFgrmiA
— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) November 1, 2022
She was on a watch list for allegedly supporting communism in the 1950s. Up until the middle of the 1970s, her FBI file was active. In 1963, Horne performed nationwide for the National Council for Negro Women while participating in a march in Washington, D.C. She received Grammy, Emmy, Tony, and NAACP Image Awards before passing away in 2010 at 92 from heart disease.
The presentation on Tuesday was a “celebration of the achievements of Black women to theatre history,” according to Lumet, who followed in her grandmother’s footsteps by pursuing a career in Hollywood, she told CBS Morning. There was no question in the minds of those present.
Today we celebrate the unveiling of the newly renamed Lena Horne Theatre as well as the enduring legacy of the actress, singer and civil rights activist. pic.twitter.com/ciBFdHkvLW
— Broadway Cares (@BCEFA) November 1, 2022
Wendell Pierce, an actor, continued, “It’s all about legacy, making sure people know that she paved the way for others to follow, so they don’t have to feel alone, that someone was there before and ahead of time. She showed real bravery.