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Lena Horne

Lena Horne
Usage Conditions Apply
Brian Lanker, 31 Aug 1947 - 13 Mar 2011
Lena Calhoun Horne, 30 Jun 1917 - 9 May 2010
Gelatin silver print
Image: 71.1 × 71.4 cm (28 × 28 1/8")
Sheet/Mount: 81.1 × 75.4 cm (31 15/16 × 29 11/16")
Mat: 88.3 × 86.8 cm (34 3/4 × 34 3/16")
Frame: 91 × 90.3 cm (35 13/16 × 35 9/16")
Home Furnishings\Curtain
Home Furnishings\Pillow
Lena Calhoun Horne: Female
Lena Calhoun Horne: Performing Arts\Performer\Actor\Theater
Lena Calhoun Horne: Society and Social Change\Reformer\Activist\Civil rights activist
Lena Calhoun Horne: Performing Arts\Performer\Actor\Movie
Lena Calhoun Horne: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Singer\Popular
Lena Calhoun Horne: Performing Arts\Performer\Actor\Television
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; partial gift of Lynda Lanker and a museum purchase made possible with generous support from Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker, Agnes Gund, Kate Kelly and George Schweitzer, Lyndon J. Barrois Sr. and Janine Sherman Barrois, and Mark and Cindy Aron
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
Brian Lanker
Object number
Exhibition Label
Born Brooklyn, New York
“Don’t be afraid to feel as angry or as loving as you can, because when you feel nothing, it’s just death.”
— Lena Horne
Singer and actress Lena Horne challenged racial barriers to emerge as one of the most popular entertainers of her generation. After her debut as a dancer at Harlem’s Cotton Club, she found work as a Big Band vocalist. Her subsequent success as a nightclub singer led to a Hollywood audition, and she became the first African American to secure a long-term contract with a major motion picture studio when she signed with MGM in 1942.
After starring in the all-Black musicals Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather, Horne found her screen opportunities limited when she refused to accept stereotypical roles. Blacklisted during the McCarthy era, she rebuilt her career and was active in the civil rights movement. She performed at the 1963 March on Washington and other civil rights rallies, adding protest songs to her repertoire. Horne’s crowning professional achievement came in 1981, when her critically acclaimed one-woman show earned a special Tony Award.
Nacida en Brooklyn, Nueva York
“No temas sentir toda la furia o el amor de que seas capaz, porque cuando no sientes nada, es la muerte.”
—Lena Horne
La cantante y actriz Lena Horne desafió las barreras raciales para situarse como una de las artistas más populares de su generación. Tras debutar como bailarina en el Cotton Club de Harlem, fue vocalista en orquestas de jazz. Su éxito posterior como cantante de clubes nocturnos le propició una audición en Hollywood, y en 1942 se convirtió en la primera persona afroamericana que firmó un contrato a largo plazo con un estudio de cine importante, la MGM.
Luego de protagonizar los musicales con elenco negro Cabin in the Sky y Stormy Weather, sus oportunidades fílmicas se vieron limitadas por negarse a aceptar papeles estereotipados. Fue incluida en la lista negra durante la era de McCarthy, pero rehízo su carrera y estuvo activa en el movimiento pro derechos civiles. Cantó en la Marcha a Washington de 1963 y otras manifestaciones, e incluyó canciones de protesta en su repertorio. Su máximo logro profesional llegó en 1981 con un aclamado show unipersonal que le ganó un Premio Tony especial.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
I Dream a World: Selections from Brian Lanker’s Portraits of Remarkable Black Women (Part 1)
On View
NPG, North Gallery 220