Lena Horne Theatre is first Broadway venue named after a Black woman

NEW YORK — The Lena Horne Theatre was officially unveiled in New York City on Tuesday, becoming the first Broadway theater named after a Black woman.

What was previously called the Brooks Atkinson Theatre (and the Mansfield Theatre before that) now displays the name of late actress and activist Lena Horne on a glittering marquee.

Horne, who was also a renowned dancer and singer, is a veteran of five Broadway shows, according to Broadway Direct. Her performance in “Jamaica” earned Horne a Tony Award nomination for best actress in a musical in 1958. And in 1981, she received a Special Tony Award for “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.”

Lena Horne was a trailblazing performer and longtime civil rights activist whose film credits include “Cabin in the Sky” and “Stormy Weather,” both released in 1943.

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The trailblazing performer also won multiple Grammys, among other awards, and had a lengthy career in film and television — with credits including “Cabin in the Sky” (1943) “Stormy Weather” (1943) and “The Wiz” (1978). Horne was also a longtime civil rights activist.

Horne died in 2010 at 92-years-old.

The Nederlander Organization, which owns and operates the Lena Horne Theatre, worked with Black Theatre United to rename it after the icon. According to Broadway Direct, Nederlander was one of three major theatre owners that committed to having at least one of their theaters named after a Black artist, as part of Black Theatre United’s New Deal for Broadway released in August 2021.

Nederlander announced in June that the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, named after The New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson in 1960, would be renamed to honor Horne. That was made official at Tuesday’s ceremony.

According to The Grio, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, actresses Tamara Tunie, Audra McDonald and Karen Boykin-Towns of the NAACP were among those who participated in the public event, which also featured special singing performances.

“Today we made history in NYC when we unveiled the Lena Horne Theatre, the first Broadway theater named after a Black woman,” Adams wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “Lena personified elegance and grace while also fighting racism and injustice. Her legacy and NYC story live on.”

“This is a celebration of the contributions of Black women to theater history,” Horne’s granddaughter, actor and producer Jenny Lumet, told CBS Mornings.

Hit musical “Six” is currently playing at the Lena Horne Theatre. The theater, which sits on 47th Street in New York City, was built in 1926 and originally called the Mansfield Theatre.

Read more at usatoday.com

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