Happy 99th Birthday, Lena Horne!

The wonderful Lena Horne was born Lena Calhoun Horne 99 years ago today in Brooklyn, New York.

    Lena Horne Did-You-Knows

  • Lena Horne was raised in large part by her grandparents while her mother pursued a career as an actress (her parents split when she was a toddler).
  • Horne quit school at age 14 and by 16, she was dancing (and later singing) at the renowned Cotton Club in Harlem.
  • MGM, worried that Horne would be perceived as white onscreen, had makeup artist Max Factor create a line of makeup for her called Dark Egyptian.
  • Horne was turned down at least twice—Pinky (1949), Show Boat (1951)—for film roles as light-skinned black women who pass for white. In both cases, white actresses were cast and had their skin darkened with makeup.
  • Horne was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  • Horne’s favorite actor was John Garfield.
  • During World War II, Horne refused to perform before racially segregated audiences of American soldiers. This was against Army policy, but she held her ground, putting on a show for a mixed audience of African-American soldiers and German POWs.
  • Accused of having Communist sympathies because of her civil rights activities dating back to the 1940s and her enduring friendship with Paul Robeson, Horne was blacklisted from films and became a cabaret performer.
  • Horne was born on the same day and in the same city—Brooklyn, NY—as actress Susan Hayward.
  • Horne worked with Eleanor Roosevelt on anti-lynching laws and was a frequent guest in the Kennedy White House.

Happy birthday, Ms. Horne—wherever you may be!

Lena Horne