Hollywood trailblazer and civil rights activistLena Horne was born 95 years ago on June 30th, 1917. In addition to starring in Hollywood films, Horne also participated in the Civil Rights movement. She volunteered for the NAACP, was at the March on Washington, and worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws.
Horne’s contract with MGM explicitly stated that she would never have to portray a maid.
During a tour stop in Las Vegas, a hotel Horne stayed at reportedly burned the sheets she used after she checked out–rather than reuse them for white hotel guests.
Even though Horne was in movies with other stars like Gene Kelly and Lucille Ball, her scenes were filmed in a way where they could be cut out when the films were shown in movie theaters in the South.
MGM producer Arthur Freed asked Ms. Horne to act in his show, “St. Louis Woman.” When Horne refused because she felt the role was stereotypical and offensive, Freed retaliated by blocking her from other movie roles.
During World War II, Horne was asked to perform for the troops. Horne saw that the audience was segregated and that black soldiers were seated in the back–even behind white enemy prisoners of war from Germany. Horne caught flak from her producers for defying this unfair practice when she walked off the stage to the first row of black troops and performed with her back facing the the Germans, straight to the black American troops.