Legendary screen actress and singer Lena Horne, one of the first Black women actresses to sign a film contract with MGM Studios and later known for her roles in The Wiz and Stormy Weather, was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 30, 1917.
At age 16, she left school to perform in the chorus line at the famed Cotton Club in Harlem but soon set her sights on Broadway, landing her first part as a voodoo dancer in the show Dance With Your Gods in 1934. She sang and acted in numerous films in the 1940s, including Thousands Cheer (1943), Broadway Rhythm (1944) and Two Girls and a Sailor (1944), but she was often overlooked for major roles because of her refusal to play roles that stereotyped Black women.
During World War II, she spoke out on the unfair treatment of Black soldiers in the U.S. military, an action she later said led to her being banned from Hollywood for nearly a decade.
In her final film appearance, she returned to the big screen as Glinda the Good Witch in the film adaptation of The Wiz (1978), the all-Black musical based on The Wizard of Oz. In 1981, her critically acclaimed one-woman Broadway show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, won a Tony Award. She continued to record music well into the 1990s. On May 9, 2010, she passed away at the age of 92.
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