On Thursday, the Nederlander Organization announced that the century-old Brooks Atkinson theater will be renamed after Lena Horne, the legendary Grammy and Tony Award-winner performer and civil rights activist Lena Horne, NBC News reports. The change is historic; it marks the first time that a Broadway theatre will be named after a Black woman.
Last year, Black Theater United, whose founding members include Billy Porter and Audra McDonald, reached an agreement with Nederlander and other major landlords on Broadway to have “at least one” of their theaters named after a Black artist as a commitment to anti-racism and to address the lack of diversity in the theatre industry.
Per the agreement, the 110-year-old Cort Theatre on 48th Street was renamed after renowned actor James Earl Jones by the Shubert Organization in March.
Horne launched her illustrious career at the age of 16 as a member of the chorus at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club. She would go on to be an acclaimed nightclub performer, recording artist and actress.
In 1958, she became the first Black woman to be nominated for a Tony Award for best actress in a musical, for her work in Jamaica. In 1981, she was granted a special Tony Award for The Lady and Her Music, which ran for more than 300 performances on Broadway.
As a civil rights activist, Horne advocated for Black soldiers and was a frequent participant in protests and marches. She supported anti-lynching legislation and spoke out forcibly against racism in the entertainment industry.
James L. Nederlander, president of the Nederlander organization, said in a press release he was “honored to have known Lena” and that she “became a part of our family over the years.”
“It is my privilege, honor, and duty to memorialize Lena for generations to come,” he continued.
Currently, the Atkinson theatre is a 1,031-seat venue on West 47th Street; it was built in 1926 and is currently home to the hit musical Six.