The National Museum of African American Music and the U.S. Postal Service today unveiled a stamp in honor of legendary performer and civil rights activist Lena Horne in observance of Black History Month. Horne will be featured at NMAAM when the museum opens in 2020. NMAAM curator Steven Lewis gave remarks detailing Horne’s lifetime musical career and contributions to the civil rights movement at the unveiling.
“Lena Horne is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic figures in American entertainment,” Lewis said. “She rose from humble beginnings to a prominent place in American history on the strength of her many performing talents and her lifelong commitment to social justice.”
Horne is best known for Hollywood films including “Cabin in the Sky” and “Stormy Weather” and the Tony Award-winning one-woman show called “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.” Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1917, she spent part of her childhood in the South and Midwest as her mother struggled to establish herself amid the limited options for black performers at the time.
Horne also played an active role in the civil rights movement during the mid-20th century. She used her prominence to stand up for political causes advancing racial equality and justice, working closely with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws, performing at the 1963 March on Washington, and working with the NAACP, SNCC and National Council of Negro Women.
“I no longer have to be a credit. I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody,” Horne said while looking back at her life and career at age 80. “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.”
ABOUT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSIC
The National Museum of African American Music, set to open in 2020, will be the only museum solely dedicated to educating, preserving and celebrating the influence African-Americans have had on music. Based in Nashville, Tenn., the museum will share the story of the American soundtrack by integrating history and interactive technology to bring musical heroes of the past into the present. For more information, please visit www.nmaam.org.
ABOUT STEVEN LEWIS
Steven Lewis is a curator for NMAAM. He received a B.A. degree in jazz studies from Florida State University and an M.A. degree in musicology from the University of Virginia, where he is currently a Ph.D. candidate in musicology. His areas of research include African-American political thought, late 20th-century jazz history, and 19th-century African-American music.
Before joining NMAAM, he worked closely with the curatorial team at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution.