Lena Horne was notable twentieth century woman associated with American entertainment industry and Civil Rights Movement. Before moving to Hollywood she became a nightclub performer at the age of sixteen. She was once blacklisted for her politically controversial role in the Red Scare.
Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born on June 30, 1917 in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. She is supposedly descended from the John C. Calhoun family. Her family is a mixture of European American, Native American, and African-American who belonged to middle-upper-class stature in the society. Her father was involved in gambling business and when she was three years old, he left his family. Horne’s mother was an actress with a black theatre troupe and traveled extensively, thus she was mainly raised by her grandparents. She was sent to live in Georgia at the age of five.
After many years of travel with her mother, she lived with her uncle, Frank S. Horne, for two years. Upon their return to New York from Atlanta, Horne attended Girls High School in Brooklyn. Before earning her diploma certificate, she dropped out of the school. Later she moved in with her father in Pittsburg as she turned eighteen. She stepped into entertainment industry in 1933, and joined the chorus line of the Cotton Club. Afterwards, she recorded her first record release after joining Noble Sissle’s Orchestra. Subsequent to her separation from her first husband, Horne went on a tour with Charlie Barnet. Growing tired of frequent travel, she left the band. NBC featured her on popular jazz series The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street as a lead vocalist.
Moreover, Lena made appearance in a few musicals as well. The low-budget musical, The Duke is Tops was released in 1938. In 1942, she signed a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She also worked in a popular radio series Suspense, playing the role of a nightclub singer. Her debut with MGM studio was in Panama Hattie (1942). Also she performed the title song of Stormy Weather.