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"Meet the Real Lena Horne": Representations of Lena Horne in "Ebony" Magazine, 1945–1949

Megan E. Williams
Journal of American Studies
Vol. 43, No. 1 (Apr., 2009), pp. 117-130
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40464352
Page Count: 14
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"Meet the Real Lena Horne": Representations of Lena Horne in "Ebony" Magazine, 1945–1949
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Abstract

Following World War II, Ebony's creator and editor, John H. Johnson, sought to create a popular black magazine in the vein of Life and Look that would reflect the accomplishments and joys, "the happier side," of African American life. Throughout the first four years of its publication, Lena Horne appeared on the magazine's cover three times – the only woman to do so during this period. In this paper, I argue that the fledgling Ebony magazine drew on Lena Horne's wartime status as a beautiful black icon and represented her as a symbol of its ideological project, broadly, and as the Ebony image of postwar black womanhood, specifically. The magazine's representation of Lena Horne acts as a useful trope for understanding how Ebony imaged postwar black femininity in terms of motherhood, work, and civil rights activism; additionally, Ebony's representation of Horne and Ebony readers' letters to the editor reveal central issues of respectability, pinup photography, colorism, hair care, and interracial relationships as they were debated within the magazine's pages.

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