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Lena Horne honored as first black woman with Broadway theater named after her

Legendary singer and actress Lena Horne was honored Tuesday as the first black woman to have a Broadway theater named after her. File photo UPI ep/Roger Celestin
Legendary singer and actress Lena Horne was honored Tuesday as the first black woman to have a Broadway theater named after her. File photo UPI ep/Roger Celestin | License Photo

Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Music, silver screen and Broadway legend Lena Horne broke another barrier Tuesday with the naming of the Lena Horne Theatre.

Horne, who passed away at 92 years old in 2010, is the first black woman in history to have a Broadway theater named after her. The theater, formerly the Brooks Atkinson Theatre named after a famous critic, was built in 1926. It was originally named the Mansfield Theatre.

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"We chose Lena Horne because she is such an important part of the fabric of Broadway and of the fabric of Nederlander," said Christina Selby, Nederlander's Vice President of Production and Touring in a press release. "She had very close ties to Jimmy [Nederlander] Sr., because he produced her show at the Nederlander Theatre. This is a family company first and foremost, and we wanted to honor someone who was a part of the family."

The Lena Horne Theatre hosts up to 1,069 people. It is one of nine Nederlander Organization theaters.

Horne was born in Brooklyn in 1917, the daughter of an actress. By 1933 she was making a name for herself with her voice, before later becoming an actress and stage performer. Some of her most famous on-screen work included her breakout film Stormy Weather, and her follow-up film Cabin in the Sky. She then made a splash on Broadway with her performance as Savannah in Jamaica, which she starred in alongside Ricardo Montalban.

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Horne was a multi-Grammy winning singer and Tony Award winner, but her influence stretched beyond the screen and stage. She was an active voice throughout the civil rights movement, frequently appearing and singing at rallies across the south in the 1960s. Horne also faced down the brunt of McCarthyism when the anti-communist witch hunts derailed her acting career by blacklisting her. Horne's fervor for justice and equality for all did not waver.

"This is about the next generation of little Black girls who dream of Broadway," said Jacquelyn Bell, an Associate at Nederlander. "Horne's legacy reminds us that representation matters. Those girls will have a place where they can go and see someone who looks like them. They can point to it and say, 'I belong here.'"

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