Initially because her face allowed her to pass as white in a racist society, Lena Horne became the first black performer to be signed by a major Hollywood studio. She went on to become one of the most successful blues and jazz singers in the world. Her dazzling smile and sultry voice charmed listeners, especially when she performed Cole Porter songs.
During WWII, she took a courageous stand in refusing to perform for segregated audiences at USO shows, leading to her being blacklisted for a time. Her convictions remained firm, and she became very active in the civil rights movement.
She was also the first black person to buy a home in then-segregated Hollywood, using a white acquaintance as an intermediary. When her new neighbors found out, they initiated a petition to prevent her taking up residence -- an effort foiled by another resident, Humphrey Bogart, who raised so much hell with the petitioners that they dropped the whole thing.
A woman of talent and principle, Lena Horne was a trailblazer for generations of black singers and actors, and an inspiration to the world. Here's a brief sample of her talent.