Excerpt from Actor’s Devotional June 30th

Posted: June 30, 2009 in Devotionals

Lena HorneActor’s Devotional


June 30th


You have to be taught to be second-class; you’re not born that way.

 Lena Horne


She refused to be second-class.  She was an over comer.  She was born in Brooklyn, NY to a new breed of American, the talented tenth, as W.E.B. Du Bois liked to call them.  Those were the African-Americans who were wealthier and more educated than other blacks in America at the time.  Her father and her mother were of Black, Caucasian, Native American descent.  Her dad was a professional gambler and left the family when she was only three, but she would overcome that… her mom taught her that.  Her mother had to work hard to keep them in the luxury to which they were accustomed, and so the little girl was raised mainly by her grandparents. Refusing to be second rate, she applied herself and overcame.  She did well in school, but knowing she loved entertainment, she decided to drop out of high school and take a job in the chorus line at the Cotton Club in NY City.  She quickly moved up the ranks, and soon had her own starring spot in the show.  Soon she was fronting the popular Charlie Barnet Band full time on the road, and she even was asked to (and eventually did) replace Dinah Shore on her popular radio show as the main singer.  Small roles in films were not far behind, but she was primarily a club singer.  It was on a West Coast swing of one of her club tours that Hollywood stood up and took notice of her first rate talent.  In 1942 she became the first Black actor to sign a multiyear deal with any film house… she chose MGM.  It didn’t take her long to make her mark there either.  In 1943 she became a household word with her rendition of “Stormy Weather” in the film of the same name for 20th Century Fox (on loan from MGM).  In all she would make 21 films over a 50-year span, but she was never really enchanted with Hollywood.  While she was given roles in films, often they were cut out for Southern audiences or place in America where White movie goers were not permitted to view films with Black actors in them. Additionally she would often be asked to coach the actresses who were usurping her role as lead actress, so that they might act the part and sing more like her.  This disillusionment led to her returning to the nightclub circuit and to her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement, a move that blackballed from movies for almost 10 years.  She would not be treated as a second-class citizen, however, and came back strong in the ensuing decades.  All the while she spoke out against racial and economic injustice, even once singing at a speech given by Medgar Evers in Mississippi just days before his assassination.  Being one of the most popular post-war singers in America, she often would refuse to sing at venues where German POW’s were seated in front of Black American GI’s.  She was part of the March on Washington, served in the NAACP, and worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching legislation.  Of course all of her activism was based largely on her talent, and she continued to use it.  Along the path of her long career she racked up 4 Grammies, the ASCAP Pied Piper Award, The Kennedy Center Honors Award, and in 1980 (at the age of 73) the she was given the Drama Desk Award and The New York Drama Critics Award for Best Actress in a Musical for “The Lady and Her Music.  It was on this day in 1917 that Lena Horne, a first class lady and pioneer for African Americans everywhere, was born.


We think we have it hard.  That everything is against us.  Not to minimize anyone’s pain but… give me a break.  What would it be like to live in a world where you’re not allowed to play for the dominant culture?  Where they love your talent but hate you?   What would it be like to lauded by kings, but despised by the rednecks.  The next time you are tempted to complain, remember Lena Horne.  They say she weighed every bit of 90 pounds, but she was a spitfire, someone who persevered, who overcame.  You may feel small in your spirit, and the challenges that assault you as big as the Giants of the Jim Crow South… but there is always a way forward.  With man it may seem impossible but with God all things are possible!  They say where there’s a will there’s a way… well there is a will and it’s God’s.  He desires to work his will in you to succeed and to conquer demons, inside and personal and outside and universal.  Never give up, never give in.  Remember Ms. Lena and overcome.


Revelation 3:7 These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says

  1. Stephanie R says:

    Mr. David,
    That devotional really made me realize how little the obstacles in my life are. I just need to trust on God’s power and persevere. Thank you for that wake-up call!

    Stephanie R.

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