Living

Lena Horne has little-known ties to Middle Georgia

Lena Horne, promotional photo from the 1943 film “Cabin in the Sky”
Lena Horne, promotional photo from the 1943 film “Cabin in the Sky”

The world knows Lena Horne as a renowned singer, dancer, actress and civil rights activist — perhaps the most celebrated female performer of her time. What is less known is the role that Macon and Fort Valley played in her early life.

Horne was born in 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, Lena accompanied her actress mother on travels throughout the South. She stayed for a time in Macon, where she later recalled living in a two-room shack with walls patched with newspaper until her uncle Frank visited and removed her to Fort Valley, where he served as dean of students at present-day Fort Valley State University.

By 1933 Horne was back in New York, performing at the famed Cotton Club in Harlem, and her spectacular career was launched. She became the first black actress nominated for a Tony Award, and ultimately received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award prior to her death in 2010.

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