In the two days since the loss of the legendary Lena Horne, plenty has been written about her entertainment legacy. There is also a renewed focus on Horne's legacy to the Civil Rights movement, which President Obama acknowledged in his statement.
Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post describes Horne as a "glamorous revolutionary" and an "infiltrator."
"[Horne] was, by any standard, gorgeous. But she knew that the racial ambiguity of her looks allowed her to attain a level of stardom that was inaccessible to singers and actors who conformed more closely to white America's image of 'black.' ... Horne was always outspoken about civil rights. During World War II, she complained about how black soldiers -- who had made her a popular pinup, essentially the black Betty Grable -- were being treated in the segregated Army. Her refusal to perform for segregated audiences got her disinvited from USO tours. Horne blamed her activism and her associations for the waning of her movie career after her MGM contract expired in 1950; actor Paul Robeson and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, both known for their left-leaning views, were among her good friends. There is no evidence that she was ever actually blacklisted, however. Tastes changed, and musicals became passe. By the time black actors began to get substantial dramatic roles in the movies, Horne was past leading-lady age."
Democracy Now has produced a fascinating report on Horne's civil rights legacy. It includes her participation in the 1963 March on Washington alongside Dr. Martin Luther King. Also detailed is Horne's meeting with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy alongside authors James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry—both of whom were gay.
The report heavily relies on a 1966 Horne interview with Pacifica Radio. Horne talks about being mentored: "Paul Robeson taught me to be proud because I was Negro. He sat me down for hours and told be about it.. I heard about it, saw it in some books, but they didn't teach it in school. They still don't teach in history books. He didn't talk to me about being a symbol of Negro pride singing in some club, he talked to me about my heritage. That's why I always loved him."
The interview is remarkable. Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...