Brown Bread: Lena Horne

Lena Horne & Cab Calloway

In a 60-year career, Lena Horne , who has died aged 92, broke down numerous racial barriers. In the 1940s, she was one of the first black singers with a major white band, the first to perform at the famous Copacabana nightclub, and the first to sign a long-term Hollywood contract.

She later became an active campaigner for civil rights and was a powerful voice of the movement.

She was candid about the reasons for her success. “I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept,” she once said. “I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked.”

Looking back at the age of 80, Lena Horne said: “My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I’m free. I no longer have to be a ‘credit.’ I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”

R.I.P. Lena Horne 1917-2010

Related:

Lena Horne, a true breakthrough act

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