Legendary actress and “Cabin In The Sky” singer Lena Horne will be the first Black woman to have a theater renamed after her. On Thursday (June 11), the Nederlander Organization—which operates historic theaters and produces innovative theatrical and concert events—announced that the Broadway Brooks Atkinson Theatre will be renamed after the civil rights activist.
The decision came after owners and operators of 39 commercial and nonprofit Broadway theaters—alongside the Broadway League and Actors’ Equity Association—wanted to improve diversity and inclusion in the industry.
“We are proud to take this moment to rename one of our theaters in honor of the great civil rights activist, actress, and entertainer Lena Horne,” James L. Nederlander said in a statement. “I am so honored to have known Lena. She became a part of our family over the years. It means so much to me that my father was the producer of ‘Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,’ and it is my privilege, honor, and duty to memorialize Lena for generations to come.”
In 1980, Nederlander actually booked Horne at the Nederlander Theatre for her very own musical, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music. The dancer’s performance garnered a Tony Award and two Grammys. She also went on to receive a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1989—an award presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.
Hornes daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley released a statement following the announcement that reads:
“On February 13, 1939, Brooks Atkinson wrote a review of the musical ‘Blackbirds’ of 1939 for the New York Times. His review was generally unfavorable except for the mention of ‘a radiantly beautiful girl, Lena Horne, who will be a winner once she has proper direction.’ The proper direction came from within Lena herself. She sought an artistic education, and a political education. She sought her own voice, found it, and then fought for the right that was always denied her — the right to tell her own story.” She also went on to thank James M. Nederlander on behalf of the Horne family for staging Lena’s 1981 one-woman show, which lasted for 366 performances in three countries.
“We’re grateful to the Nederlander Organization for rechristening this space to the Lena Horne Theater. We hope artists and audiences alike will tell their own stories here,” she added.
The actual name change will occur sometime this fall. The exact date will be based on the readiness of the marquee signage.