March 29th, 1999
Lena Horne: Race and the American Artist
Lesson Overview


The American Master’s series lessons for teachers featuring Lena Horne will focus on how cultural and racial constraints shaped her personal and artistic development. Race played a critical role in Horne’s life. She struggled with how to be a black woman, to make connections with her family and colleagues, and how to find herself as a human being and contributor to the larger world. Students will participate in activities that focus on the role of race in the entertainment world and make connections to Horne’s life story. They will conduct research, participate in value-oriented discussions, compare Horne’s experiences to other artists, and engage in reading and writing activities that promote critical thinking.

Grade Levels

6 – 12

Subject Areas

Language Arts; History


Students will:

  • reflect on the tensions between individual responsibilities and members of a larger culture through discussion and writing activities.
  • participate in a debate focusing on the topic of role models and an individual’s responsibility to society.

  • conduct Internet research.
  • create presentations based on Internet research and readings.

  • write a letter based on their understandings of the role of racism in Lena Horne’s life.

  • create a presentation illustrating their developing understandings of how social, cultural and political movements influence artists and performers.




Gathers and uses information for research purposes

  • Uses a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information for research topics (e.g., news sources such as magazines, radio, television, newspapers; government publications; microfiche; telephone information services; databases; field studies; speeches; technical documents; periodicals; Internet)


Understands the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties

  • Understands individual and institutional influences on the civil rights movement (e.g., the origins of the postwar civil rights movement; the role of the NAACP in the legal assault on the leadership and ideologies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X; the effects of the constitutional steps taken in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government; the shift from de jure to de facto segregation; important milestones in the civil rights movement between 1954 and 1965; Eisenhower’s reasons for dispatching federal troops to Little Rock in 1957)
  • Understands significant influences on the civil rights movement (e.g., the social and constitutional issues involved in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954) court cases; the connection between legislative acts, Supreme Court decisions, and the civil rights movement; the role of women in the civil rights movement and in shaping the struggle for civil rights)


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