Although best known for her singing and dancing at jazz night clubs, most notably the Cotton Club in the 1930’s, Brooklyn-born Lena Horne was far more than just an entertainer. From even her earliest days, she was a major component in the civil rights movement who never backed down when it came to fighting for equality. Even as early as 1941, while abroad to entertain the World War II troops, Horne refused to perform for any audience that was segregated and had the African American servicemen sitting in the back — even behind the white German POWs. When the audience wasn’t integrated per her request, she was ballsy enough to walk off stage and perform directly for the black U.S. soldiers with the POWs at her back. She was not a woman who would be stifled when it came to her craft or beliefs in human rights and equality.

She continued to perform and be a regular voice and figure in the civil rights movement until 2000 when she decided to drop from the public eye. She died in 2010 at the age of 92. Because of Horne and people like her, the world is a better place; her tireless efforts to achieve respect for all human beings is something that will always be just as paramount to her memory as her amazing singing voice.


Photo: Time