Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born in Brooklyn, NY on June 30, 1917 and died May 9, 2010 the age of 92. She was a famous actress and singer and was also known for her role in the civil rights movement and for refusing to take on any roles that stereotyped African American women.
When Horne turned 16, she dropped out of school to perform as a dancer at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem but she got her major career boost when she began a long stint at the Savoy-Plaza Hotel in 1943. She appeared in Life magazine and became the highest paid black entertainer at the time.
She moved to Hollywood after signing a seven year contract with MGM Studios and appeared in the two films Stormy Weather and Cabin in the Sky. Horne had trouble being cast for roles because she could only get limited roles in films with whites and her light skin made it difficult to cast her alongside popular African-Americans in full color films. As mentioned earlier, she refused to accept roles that stereotyped African-American women. She was also shunned by the community of black actors and actresses.
Horne found herself blacklisted and was unable to work in theater, film and television or recording. She continued to perform in upscale nightclubs and by 1956 she made a return to acting with her role in the comedy Meet Me in Las Vegas.
She was also active in the civil rights movement, performing at rallies across the country for the NAACP and the National Council for Negro Women. She also participated in the 1963 March on Washington.
Horne’s final film appearance was in the 1978 movie The Wiz, an African-American version of The Wizard of Oz. Horne played the role of Glinda the Good Witch and starred alongside Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. In 1981, she starred in a one woman Broadway show called Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music for 14 months. The show won a Drama Desk Award, Tony Award and two Grammy Awards for its soundtrack.
The stunningly beautiful Lena Horne died in 2010 in New York of heart failure.