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Lena Horne: 1917 – 2010

Legendary actress, singer and civil rights activist Lena Horne died at the age 92. Horne was the first African American actress to sign a long term contract with a major studio. She refused to play stereotypical “Mammy” roles and was often consigned to smaller appearances and cameos for that reason. An avid campaigner for WWII, Horne refused to play shows for German POW’s when she discovered that they were given preferential seating over black audience members. Due to her lighter skin color, she described herself as the kind of African American who was acceptable to white audiences. In a 1981 60 Minutes interview with Ed Bradley, Horne said:

My identity is very clear to me now, I am a black woman, I’m not alone, I’m free. I no longer, I say I’m free because I no longer have to be a credit, I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.

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