As a Black kid in America, I learned about Lena Horne early. During Black History Month the prettiest girl in the room always seemed to be Lena Horne for dress up day. My father, it seemed, owned every single Lena Horne live album from back in the day. All chuckles aside, Lena Horne broke down barriers for Black people in film and music, struggling with racial barriers that still exist today.
Let’s face it: Hollywood treated her with disdain. Even though she was the first African American under contract in Tinseltown in the 40s–two decades before the civil rights movement–she was relegated to secondary parts and was even edited out of movies when they were show in the South and Midwest. Although she became frustrated with Hollywood, she was able to establish herself in the music and theater, establishing herself on Broadway with a highly successful one woman show in 1981.
Later that decade, Horne would make a name for herself for our generation, by appearing on The Cosby Show and The Muppet show. In addition, she won the Grammy lifetime achievement award in 1989 and a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance in 1995 for her album An Evening with Lena Horne.
Lena Horne was 92. She will be missed.