The late legendary luminary Lena Horne embodied the essence of grace and resilience; rising above intersectional racism and discrimination to chart a trailblazing path in the entertainment industry while opening the doors for generations of Black artists and performers along the way. The barrier-breaking Brooklyn native was celebrated for her transformative contributions with a theater renaming in New York City, NBC reported.
Horne’s name will forever shine amongst the Broadway lights in the Big Apple. On Tuesday, the 96-year-old Brooks Atkinson Theatre—which sits on West 47th Street in Manhattan’s Theater District—was renamed in her honor. The commemoration was historic as Horne became the first Black woman to have a Broadway theater that bears her namesake.
The theater is where Horne made her Broadway debut in 1934 as part of the production Dance with Your Gods. Five years later, she graced the Broadway stage again in the musical revue Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds of 1939. In 1957, she made history by becoming the first Black woman to be nominated for a ‘Leading Actress in a Musical’ Tony Award following her riveting performance in the musical Jamaica. In 1981, she returned to the Broadway stage for Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music; a one-woman theatrical musical show.
Beyond the accolades and her features in classic films like Cabin in the Sky and The Wiz, Horne will forever be remembered for harnessing her activism to advance racial equality within the arts. She refused to take on stereotypical roles that would diminish her dignity, and brought attention to racial pay gaps within the industry. Horne passed away in 2010, but her legacy lives on through Black creatives, on-camera and behind the scenes, who use their craft to develop projects that authentically capture the dimensions of Black culture.
“The timing is especially poignant during this moment of global demand for inclusivity,” read a statement from the theater’s parent company, the Nederlander Organization. “By renaming this theatre, new generations of theatergoers will be introduced to the legendary Lena Horne, an entertainer who broke barriers for other Black women to follow in her footsteps, and through this recognition will continue to inspire future generations of theatergoers.” The renaming ceremony, which was produced by Christina Selby and Jacquelyn Bell, was a vibrant celebration of Horne’s legacy that was attended by legendary stars and artistic innovators within the Broadway community who have been inspired by her.
The unveiling of the Lena Horne Theatre comes months after the Cort Theatre was renamed after revered actor James Earl Jones.
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