Did You Know Legendary Performer Lena Horne Was Born on This Day?

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This Day In History: June 30th

Actress, singer and activist Lena Horne was a top performer of her time, even earning the title of highest-paid African-American entertainer in 1943. Horne was born on June 30, 1917, in Brooklyn, New York. Here are five things to know about the talented Lena Horne!

  1. Acting Runs In The Family. Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born to a banker and an actress. Her parents were of mixed heritage and separated when she was a child. Her mother often traveled as a member of different theater troupes. Horne even accompanied her mother on the road once she got older. She followed in her mothers footsteps and was an emerging performer by the age of 16. 
  1. Integrating The Band. Following her Broadway appearance in 1939, Horne joined an all-white swing band. The Charlie Barnet Orchestra was well-known and also one of the early bands to integrate. Although she was successful in integrating the group, Horne stopped touring due to her limited ability to socialize at the venues where they performed. 
  1. Refused Roles That Would Be Demeaning To Black Women. Many fans know Horne for her performances in musicals such as Stormy Weather, Cabin In The Sky and The Wiz. The roles she selected were done purposefully. As a stipulation of her seven-year contract with MGM, Horne would not be cast in the role of a nanny, maid or other domestic workers. 
  1. Involvement With The Civil Rights Movement. Lena Horne was a longtime advocate against performing at segregated venues. She even used her own funds to perform shows and entertain Black troops during World War II. By the end of the 1940s, Horne had sued a variety of restaurants and theaters for discrimination. She took an active role in the Civil Rights Movement by performing at rallies around the country for the NAACP and the National Council for Negro Women. Horne even participated in the first March on Washington in 1963.
  1. Award Winner And Honorary Doctoral Degree Recipient. Over the course of her career, Horne has won a plethora of awards. Those awards include two Grammys and an induction to the Hall of Fame, NAACP Image Awards, a Special Tony Award and Kennedy Center Honors. In addition to awards, Horne is also the recipient of two honorary degrees. She got an honorary doctorate from Howard University in 1979 and an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters at Yale University in 1998.

Her multifaceted career as a performer and voice of the Civil Rights Movement spanned more than half a century. The life of Lena Horne has been chronicled in her memoir, Lena (1965), and Stormy Weather, a 2009 biography written by James Gavin. Horne died on May 9, 2010, in New York City.

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