Lena Horne's beauty, talent and race helped pave the way for generations of African-American stars. She passed away Sunday night at 92, reports The New York Times.
As she recounted in her successful, Tony-winning 1981 one-woman Broadway show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, the star was born in Brooklyn and rose from nightclub chorus to the rank of headliner, starting at Harlem's Cotton Club.
MGM's first leading actress of color, though she was often relegated to secondary scenes that could be edited out of movies when shown in the southern U.S.
Her films included 1943's black screen musicals Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather (the latter's title song became her anthem), though she was denied the role she long coveted: the mulatto saloon singer Julie in MGM's 1950 Show Boat.
That role instead went to her friend Ava Gardner.
In the end, Hollywood simply wasn't really ready for a beauty of color. Though she never played a maid, Horne was also denied leading-lady roles.
"They believed that audiences weren't ready," she said, referring to Hollywood studios. "They didn't know what to do with me. So they did nothing."