On Tuesday January 30th the U.S. Postal Service honored legendary performer and civil rights activist Lena Horne as the 41st honoree in its Black Heritage stamp series during a first-day-of issue ceremony at Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York City. Lena, is also the 15th women in this series.
“Today, we honor the 70-year career of a true American legend,” said Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, who dedicated the stamp. “With this Forever stamp, the Postal Service celebrates a woman who used her platform as a renowned entertainer to become a prolific voice for civil rights advancement and gender equality.”
Joining Stroman for the unveiling were author Gail Lumet Buckley, Horne’s daughter; photographer Christian Steiner and Amy Niles, president and CEO of WBGO Radio.
The stamp, designed by art director Ethel Kessler, features a black-and-white photograph of Lena Horne taken by Christian Steiner in the 1980s, which was colorized by Kristen Monthei using Horne’s “Stormy Weather” album cover as inspiration.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, on June 30, 1917, Horne was a trailblazer in Hollywood for women of color and used her fame to inspire Americans as a dedicated activist for civil rights.
Horne began her career as a dancer at Harlem’s Cotton Club and later became a featured vocalist with touring orchestras. The rampant racial discrimination she encountered from audiences, hotel and venue managers and others was so disconcerting that she stopped touring, and in 1941, she made her move to Hollywood. A year later, she signed a contract with MGM — one of the first long-term contracts with a major Hollywood studio — with the stipulation that she would never be asked to take stereotypical roles then available to black actors. Her most famous movie roles were in Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather, both released in 1943.
During World War II, Horne entertained at camps for black servicemen, and after the war worked on behalf of Japanese Americans who were facing discriminatory housing policies. She worked with Eleanor Roosevelt in pressing for anti-lynching legislation. In the 1960s, Horne continued her high-profile work for civil rights, performing at rallies in the South, supporting the work of the National Council for Negro Women, and participating in the 1963 March on Washington.
Horne’s awards and honors include a special Tony Award for her one-woman Broadway show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music; three Grammy Awards; the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Actors Equity Paul Robeson Award. She was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 1984, and her name is among those on the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
Long version ceremony video
Video used with permission from Kristal Hart
Stamp photographer Christian Steiner, Horne's daughter Gail Lumet Buckley, and USPS Deputy
Postmaster General Ronald Stroman
Former NYC mayor David Dinkins, Horne's daughter Gail Lumet Buckley (with family members), USPS Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, and WBGO President/CEO Amy Niles
Lena Horne's daughter
Gail Lumet Buckley
USPS Deputy Postmaster
General Ronald Stroman
WBGO President and CEO Amy Niles
Stamp photographer Christian Steiner, and USPS Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman
Former NYC Mayor David Dinkins and WBGO President/ CEO Amy Niles
Ethel Kessler, USPS art director who designed Lena Horne stamp, and Christian Steiner who took the photograph featured on the stamp.