Prospect Park Alliance Archives

Prospect Park Bandshell Renamed for Lena Horne

June 25, 2021

Prospect Park Bandshell has been renamed Lena Horne Bandshell to honor the legendary singer, actress, dancer, and Brooklyn native. This renaming is part of the New York City Parks Department’s pledge, made in June 2020, to stand in solidarity with the Black community in its fight to combat systemic racism. Since then, Parks has named 28 parks spaces in honor of the Black experience to help acknowledge the legacies of these Black Americans, encourage discourse about their contributions, and work to make the park system more diverse and reflective of the people it serves.

The renaming of the Bandshell honors Bed-Stuy native Lena Horne, a legendary 20th century singer, actress, and dancer. Lena was active in the Civil Rights movement, and faced racism in her own career as a Black performing artist, but overcame these obstacles to win three Grammys. The Lena Horne Bandshell is home to the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, New York’s longest-running, free outdoor performing arts festival, which will honor Horne’s legacy this summer by showcasing a diverse array of Black musicians, including Ari Lennox, KAMAUU, Mr. Eazi, Junglepussy, and Son Little.

In addition to the Horne Bandshell, the 15 other newly named park spaces represent educators, Civil Rights leaders, pioneers in the LGBTQ+ community, novelists, playwrights, abolitionists and more. To commemorate the newly renamed park spaces, Parks staff and elected officials from across the city joined together at Mullaly Park and Recreation Center in the Bronx on June 16, in timing with our new federal holiday, Juneteenth, the day to celebrate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. The event was held at Mullaly Park to honor its planned new name for Rev. T. Wendell Foster, the first African-American City Councilmember to represent the Bronx. The site will officially be renamed in September 2022 in accordance with Parks policy of naming three years posthumous. Learn more about the Parks Department’s renaming efforts.

“As our city works towards reopening after its sanctioned period of confinement, it’s a joy to see New Yorkers populating our parks and other greenspaces” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams at the June 16 celebration. “Kudos are extended to NYC Parks for making the renaming of 16 new park spaces after notable Black icons an added lure and cause for celebration. My unwavering love and support of Prospect Park and its bandshell, now renamed, at my office’s suggestion, after the legendary actress, singer, civil rights activist and homegrown Brooklynite Lena Horne, will make it one of my much-anticipated points of re-entry this summer.”

About Lena Horne
Lena Horne was born in 1917 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and attended what is now the Boys and Girls High School. As a young girl she was drawn to the performing arts and became a regular singer at many New York City institutions of the ‘30s, including the Cotton Club, a Prohibition-era nightclub that, despite showcasing some of the most talented Black musicians of the time, refused to admit Black guests, and Café Society, New York City’s first racially integrated nightclub, located in Greenwich Village. In 1942 she was signed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and went on to win singing roles in many films, although the industry’s racism prevented her from being cast in leading roles. Eventually, she abandoned Hollywood, stating that she was “tired of being typecast as a Negro who stands against a pillar singing a song. I did that 20 times too often.” At this time, she returned to the nightclub circuit and became one of the United States’ premier performers of the post-war era, as well as a regular feature on variety shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Dean Martin Show. Over the course of her career she won a Tony for her one-woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, and three Grammys.

Horne was active in the Civil Rights movement, attending NAACP rallies in the South, participating in the March on Washington as a speaker and performer, and working with Eleanor Roosevelt in attempts to pass anti-lynching laws. Horne passed away in 2010, but her immense talent and drive to challenge injustice stays with us to this day.

The Bandshell isn’t the only new name in Prospect Park this summer! Learn about “Juneteenth Way,” the new name for the path and benches across from Lefferts Historic House.