Lena Horne

Horne Lena Horne was born on June 30, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents
were Teddy and Edna Scottron Horne. After her father left her at the age of two
in order to pursue his gambling career; her mother leaving soon after that to
pursue her acting career; she went to live with her grandparents. Through her
grandparents influence she became involved with organizations like the NAACP, at
an early age. In 1924 she went back to live with her mother, traveling and being
schooled all over the state until she was fourteen. At the age of fourteen she
decided to drop out of school and go to work. Because she was talented and light
skinned it was not hard for her to find a job. She became a chorus girl in

Harlem's Cotton Club where blacks entertained a strictly all white crowd. At
that time she was making about $25 a week. It was here that Lena got to meet and
observe now famous artists such as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Count Basie,

Ethal Waters, and Billie Holiday. At the age of nineteen she met and married

Louis Jones. Together they had two children Gail and Teddy (who later died in

1970 from kidney failure). While trying to get used to raising a family and
having a career, she received a call from an agent, who had seen her at the

Cotton Club, about a part in a movie. Her controlling husband allowed her to be
in "The Duke is Tops" and also the musical revue "Blackbirds of

1939." When she finally got up the courage to leave Louis, he deiced to
take her son away from her. Page 2 She lost custody of Teddy when the divorce
was final and has always regretted not fighting harder for her son. After her
divorce she began singing with Noble Sissie's Society Orchestra. Through out
their tour she had to endure harsh racism having to sleep in tenement boarding
houses, the bus and even once in circus grounds. Soon after that, she toured
with Charlie Barnet's Outfit and became the first African American to tour
with an all white band. She was their feature singer and considers this to be
the beginning of her success. Lena decided to head out to Hollywood and see what
she could do out there. She began singing in the Trocadero Club where she met
one of the most influential people in her life: Billy Strayhom. Billy Strayhom
was the chief music-writer for Duke Ellington. Lena has always felt that she and
he were soul mates, despite the fact that he was gay. At 76 she sang a forty
minute set at his funeral. While singing in the Trocadero Club she was
discovered by MGM. Being a strong believer in equal rights she demanded a
contract. Right then Lena earned her place in African American history as "the
first African-American actress in history to sign a long-term contract with a
major film studio." (AMC) Lena began to emerge as the first pinup girl for

African American GI's. Also she was the first African American actress to be
on the cover of a movie magazine, Motion Picture Magazine 1944. Lena Horne
married a white musical arranger in 1947. His name was Lennie Page 3 Hayton.

They kept their marriage a secret for three years because of the controversy
over interracial marriages. When the marriage finally came out in the open, the
couple was bombarded with numerous threatening letters. The couple was married
for 24 years when he died in 1971. Devastated by his death; she moved in with
her daughter. It wasn't until three years later when Tony Bennett convinced
her to return to show business that she did any performing. In 1981 she put on
the performance of a lifetime. Her one women show entitled "Lena Horne: The

Lady and Her Music" ran for fourteen months straight before she took the
production on tour. She has always been a strong believer in equal rights. Lena
has actively participated in the National Association for the Advancement of

Colored People, the National Council of Negro women, the Delta Sigma Theta
sorority and the Urban League. Lena often offered her time singing and speaking
at rallies and conventions in support of equal rights. One of the advancements
she is most proud of is an honorary doctorate she received from Howard

University in 1980. "?I had been offered doctorates earlier,' she said,
?and had turned them down because I hadn't been to college. But by the time

Howard presented the doctorate to me, I