Lena Horne Makes History As the First Black Woman to Have a Broadway Theater Named After Her

by Yah Yah
Voiced by Amazon Polly

Hollywood legend Lena Horne will make history again this year by becoming the first-ever Black woman to have a Broadway theater named after her.

The Brooks Atkinson Theatre will be renamed the Lena Horne Theatre in honor of the singer, dancer, actor and civil rights activist.

Last week, The Nederlander Organization, which owns the theater, announced the news, citing her significant impact on Broadway as the reason.

“We are proud to take this moment to rename one of our theaters in honor of the great civil rights activist, actress, and entertainer Lena Horne,” said James L. Nederlander of The Nederlander Organization. “I am so honored to have known Lena. She became a part of our family over the years. It means so much to me that my father was the producer of Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, and it is my privilege, honor, and duty to memorialize Lena for generations to come.”

James (Jimmy) L. Nederlander’s father, James M. Nederlander, was one of the lead producers of the 1981 play “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.” Horne was awarded a special Tony Award and two Grammy Awards for the cast recording of her show.

Horne began her career at the Cotton Club. However, she was often refused leading roles because she was Black. She inked a deal with MGM Studios and starred in several blockbuster hits, including “Cabin in the Sky,” “The Wiz,” and Stormy “Weather.” 

“Lena Horne devoted her life to theater and the entertainment industry for seven decades,” said Tony Award-winning actress LaChanze in the press release. “She was a pioneer. A trailblazer. An inspiration to so many of us who stand on her shoulders to this day. She was an outspoken advocate for civil rights, using her platform to speak up for equality. 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.”

Horne was also at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, performing at demonstrations around the country on behalf of the NAACP and the National Council for Negro Women. The award-winning actress also partook in the 1963 March on Washington.

“Maybe it’s because I’m a Black woman, but maybe because I’m a woman, I don’t see as much as I wanted. I don’t see it happening as much as it happened to us 10 years ago. I think it’s worsened and it’s like the French say, ‘the more we change, the more it stays the same.’ I’m hearing the same old stories and seeing the same old incidents I saw before 1960,” she says in a clip from “In Their Own Words: The American Masters Digital Archive.”

And when Paul Robeson told me, ‘that’s alright, your grandchildren will see it better,’ he didn’t know I’d still have to wait. Now I’ve got a great-grandson and wonder how long he’s going to have to wait.”

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