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Lena Horne: First Black Woman With Theater Named After Her

Late singer, actress, dancer and activist Lena Horne becomes the first Black woman to have a theater named after her. On Tuesday, November 1, the Nederlander Organization unveiled the new name for Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York City, The Lena Horne Theatre. This is part of the new initiative arranged by Black Theatre United where organizations like The Shubert, Nederlander Organization, and Jujamcyn Theatres “will each have at least one of their theaters named after a Black artist.”

Who was Lena Horne? 

Horne made waves on the Broadway stage, starring in 5 Broadway shows, including Dance with Your Gods (1934), Lew Leslie’s Blackbird’s of 1939 (1939), Jamaica (1951), Tony & Lena Sing (1974), and her one-woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music (1981). Also, she received a Tony nomination for Best Actress for her role in Jamaica.

The actress also had credits in Hollywood, appearing in films like The Duke is Tops, The Wiz and television shows like What’s My Line, The Judy Garland Show, and A Different World.

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Horne was a beautiful performer and vocalist, winning Grammy awards for the following albums: Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music and An Evening with Lena Horne. She won the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989.

She also championed the Civil Rights Movement

Not only was Horne one of the first African-American female stars in Hollywood, she also helped fight for civil rights. At the beginning of her career, she sang at Café Society, which was New York City’s first integrated venue. Horne attended the March of Washington in 1963 and refused to perform for segregated audiences when entertaining troops during World War II.

Artists, fans, and artists celebrate the new theatre

On November 1st, artists, and fans, celebrated the legacy of Lena Horne. The celebration was led by founding members of Black Theatre United: LaChanze, Audra McDonald, Tamara Tunie and Vanessa Williams. Governor Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams and NAACP Vice Chair Karen Boykin-Towns were also in attendance. Horne‘s family attended the honorary unveiling, including her granddaughter, actress and screenwriter Jenny Lumet

Actress and singer Vanessa Williams sang a rendition of “Stormy Weather,” a song popularized by Horne herself. The ceremony was even more special since the late actress grew up in Brooklyn, New York.

PEOPLE spoke with Williams, who had the pleasure of meeting Horne during her career.

“Not only did I get a chance to meet her numerous times, but I got the Lena Horne Award back in the ’90s for my accomplishments, and she’s been a wonderful role model through her activism, through her stories, her career, her life, her loss, her triumphs. She’s not just a gorgeous face.”

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With Lena Horne’s exceptional talent and powerful activism, she proves to be the perfect choice for this historical Broadway theatre.

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