Lena Horne to Be Honored With Official Renaming Ceremony Next Month

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The Nederlander Organization recently announced that the Brooks Atkinson Theatre will officially be renamed after legendary singer, dancer, actor and civil rights activist, Lena Horne, by next month. 

On Wednesday, the company said that the official renaming and the marquee change will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 1 in front of the theatre. Performances, speeches and a block party with a DJ are set to be part of the celebrations. 

With the new title, Lena Horne will become the first Black woman to have a Broadway theater named in her honor. The renaming is part of a deal between multiple Broadway theatres and the Black Theatre United. Created in 2020 by a handful of artists like Billy Porter and Vanessa Williams, the community focuses on achieving equity and diversity in the theatre world. 

As part of their deal, many Black artists have been recognized with a new theatre renamed in their honor as a celebration of their achievements. Just last month, the new James Earl Jones Theatre, formerly known as the Cort Theatre, was unveiled by the Shubert Organization.

“In 1981, James M. Nederlander offered her their stage and Lena’s one woman show, The Lady and her Music ran for more than a year,” said Horne’s daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley, and her family in a statement per Playbill. “It was her fullest expression as an artist and storyteller. We’re grateful to the Nederlander Organization for rechristening this space to the Lena Horne Theater.”

“We hope artists and audiences alike will tell their own stories here,” she added. 

Throughout her career, Horne broke many barriers and garnered many achievements to her name. Beginning her career in show business at the age of 16, she eventually became the first Black artist to enter a partnership with a big Hollywood studio- Metro Goldwyn Mayer. 

With multiple roles in film and theatre already under her belt, Horne was already an established performer when she starred in her one-woman play, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.” The show won her many accolades including a special Tony Award and two Grammys. 

Having been raised by her grandmother who was already an avid activist and suffragist, Horne became heavily ingrained into the civil rights movement. While performing for troops during World War II, she famously filed a complaint with the NAACP when she witnessed African American soldiers being forced to sit behind the German POWs. 

Horne also took the stage at the 1963 March on Washington to perform in honor of the NAACP and the SNCC and worked closely alongside Paul Robeson in the Progressive Citizens of America.

“She was an outspoken advocate for civil rights, using her platform to speak up for equality,” said performer LaChanze per Playbill. “And in the time of the global demand for inclusivity, I am deeply grateful that the Nederlander organization has committed to being a part of this movement by renaming one of their theater’s honoring the life and legacy of Lena Horne.”

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