Tag: Cotton Club

Lena Horne, Legendary Performer and Civil Rights Activist, Honored with U.S. Forever Stamp

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The U.S. Postal Service today celebrates the life and legacy of Lena Horne as the 41st honoree in the Black Heritage stamp series during a first-day-of-issue ceremony at Peter Norton Symphony Space.

“Today, we honor the 70-year career of a true American legend,” said Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, who dedicated the stamp. “With this Forever stamp, the Postal Service celebrates a woman who used her platform as a renowned entertainer to become a prolific voice for civil rights advancement and gender equality.”

Joining Stroman to unveil the stamp were Gail Lumet Buckley, an author and Horne’s daughter; Christian Steiner, photographer; and Amy Niles, president and chief executive officer, WBGO Radio.

The stamp art features a photograph of Lena Horne taken by Christian Steiner in the 1980s. Kristen Monthei colorized the original black-and-white photo using a royal blue for the dress, a color Horne frequently wore. Monthei also added a background reminiscent of Horne’s Stormy Weather album, with a few clouds to add texture and to subtly evoke the album title. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp. Anyone can share the news of the stamp using the hashtags #LenaHorneForever and #BlackHeritageStamps.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, on June 30, 1917, Horne was a trailblazer in Hollywood for women of color and used her fame to inspire Americans as a dedicated activist for civil rights.

Horne began her career as a dancer at Harlem’s Cotton Club and later became a featured vocalist with touring orchestras. The rampant racial discrimination she encountered from audiences, hotel and venue managers and others was so disconcerting that she stopped touring, and in 1941, she made her move to Hollywood. A year later, she signed a contract with MGM — one of the first long-term contracts with a major Hollywood studio — with the stipulation that she would never be asked to take stereotypical roles then available to black actors. Her most famous movie roles were in Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather, both released in 1943.

During World War II, Horne entertained at camps for black servicemen, and after the war worked on behalf of Japanese Americans who were facing discriminatory housing policies. She worked with Eleanor Roosevelt in pressing for anti-lynching legislation. In the 1960s, Horne continued her high-profile work for civil rights, performing at rallies in the South, supporting the work of the National Council for Negro Women, and participating in the 1963 March on Washington.

Horne’s awards and honors include a special Tony Award for her one-woman Broadway show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music; three Grammy Awards; the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Actors Equity Paul Robeson Award. She was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 1984, and her name is among those on the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.

Customers may purchase the Lena Horne Forever stamp at The Postal Store at usps.com/shop, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724) and at Post Office facilities nationwide. A variety of stamps and collectibles also are available at ebay.com/stamps.

THEATER REVIEW: Fantasia Barrino Celebrates Harlem’s Jazz Age In “After Midnight”

fantasia barrino After Midnight
Fantasia Barrino performs at ‘After Midnight’ Broadway opening night curtain call at Brooks Atkinson Theatre on November 3, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — NEW YORK (AP) — There are few things that bring smiles to even the most jaded faces — balloons, blaring trumpets and tap dancers. A new Broadway revue has two — no, make that all three — so no wonder it leaves you feeling lighter than air.  After Midnight, a candy sampler of some two dozen musical numbers that showcase dance, jazz or singing, opened Sunday at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre led by musical genius Wynton Marsalis, an endearing Dule Hill as its host and a thrilling guest singer in Fantasia Barrino.

The show, which first surfaced in 2011 off-Broadway, tries to re-create the energy and fun of Harlem’s famous Cotton Club nightclub in the 1920s and 30s, when Duke Ellington and his band made everything cool. It does so with panache but avoids sounding old-fashioned: There’s even room for some breakdancing and popping.  As 17 musicians from Jazz at Lincoln Center play, the night includes Fantasia belting out a super “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” a subdued “Stormy Weather” and an infectious “Zaz Zuh Zaz.” Adriane Lenox plays a hysterical boozy hellcat in two numbers, “Women Be Wise” and “Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night.”

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