Watch CBS News

Lena Horne, a "trailblazer" of the arts, becomes first Black woman with Broadway theater named after her

Lena Horne honored with Broadway theater
Lena Horne gets Broadway theater named after her 00:21

Lena Horne became the first Black woman in U.S. history to have a Broadway theater named in her honor on Tuesday. Horne, called a "fearless agent for change" by New York's governor, was a Brooklyn-born singer and actress whose career spanned decades and broke barriers. 

The venue now bearing her honor was built in 1926 as the Mansfield Theatre and got its first renaming in 1960 to pay tribute to New York Times drama critic Brooks Atkinson. On Nov. 1, it officially became the Lena Horne Theatre. "Six," a musical about the six wives of Henry VIII, is now being performed at the venue. 

Horne's granddaughter, actress and producer Jenny Lumet, told CBS Mornings' Vladimir Duthiers that the renaming of the theater is a "celebration of the contributions of Black women to theater history." 

"It's a celebration of all people in theater history," she said, "but Black women, as we know, tend to get the short end of the stick. And this, I feel like, it's not about grandma, it's about a thank you." 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said that Horne was "a world-class entertainer, a trailblazer, and a fearless agent for change." 

"The first Broadway theater to be named after a Black woman, the Lena Horne Theatre, will tell her story and inspire theatergoers for generations to come," she said.

Horne, who was born in Brooklyn in 1917, started her historic career when she was just 16 years old at Harlem's legendary Cotton Club, which has seen the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole and many others. Just a year later, according to PBS, she had her Broadway debut in "Dance With Your Gods." 

The first time she made history was in 1942, when she signed a seven-year movie deal with MGM Studios. According to PBS, she was the first African American to sign a contract with a major studio. 

Over the next few decades, she starred in various films, including 1978's "The Wiz" and released several albums. She continued to accomplish great things in the arts world, even after a few years of tragedy. In the early 1970s, her son Edwin Jones died of a "kidney ailment" at 29 years old, according to The New York Times, and her husband Lennie Hayton, a white composer who directed music for several of Horne's films, died of a "heart ailment" at 63 years old, according to The New York Times.

Horne's career in the arts continued until a few years before her death. She died in 2010 at the age of 92 due to heart failure, according to PBS, with a long line of accolades — several Grammy awards, the African-American Film Critics Association Legacy Award, NAACP Image Award, a Kennedy Center Honor, two Emmy nominations and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.