If you think you know everything about Lena Horne, think again. Here are six facts about the subject of the Postal Service’s latest Black Heritage stamp.
1. Horne began her career as a dancer at Harlem’s Cotton Club. She later became a featured vocalist with traveling orchestras but stopped touring due to the rampant racial discrimination she encountered on the road.
2. She soon became a Hollywood pioneer. In 1942, Horne signed a contract with MGM, stipulating that she would never be asked to take the stereotypical roles then available to black actors. Her most famous movie performances were in “Cabin in the Sky” and “Stormy Weather,” both released in 1943.
3. Horne worked across racial and ethnic lines. During World War II, she entertained at camps for black service members. After the war, she worked on behalf of Japanese-Americans who were facing discriminatory housing policies and joined forces with Eleanor Roosevelt to press for anti-lynching legislation.
4. Horne became a high-profile civil rights activist. In the 1960s, she performed at rallies in the South, supported the work of the National Council for Negro Women, and participated in the 1963 March on Washington.
5. She received many honors. Her recognition included a special Tony Award for her one-woman Broadway show, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music;” three Grammy Awards; the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Actors Equity Paul Robeson Award. She also was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 1984, and her name is among those on the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
6. The Lena Horne stamp pays tribute to one of her albums. The stamp features a 1980s black-and-white photograph that has been colored using royal blue, a shade Horne frequently wore. The background evokes “Stormy Weather,” one of her most famous albums.
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