Born: Hazel Dorothy Scott on June 11, 1920, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Died: October 12th, 1981 at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City, New York
Occupation: Jazz and classical pianist and singer, Actress
Known For: Being the first African-American to host a U.S. network television Series
Hazel Scott was a jazz and classical pianist and singer as well as an actress. Though she was born in Port of Spain, She was taken by her mother to New York City when she was only 4.
In her youth, Scott was recognized as a musical prodigy. A testament to this was the fact that she received scholarships at the age of 8 to study at the Juilliard School. By her teens, she was performing in jazz bands and on the radio.
Due to her high profile throughout the 1930s and 40s, Scott was able to host her own television show (fittingly named The Hazel Scott Show) during the summer of 1950, effectively becoming the first African-American to host a U.S. network television series.
Scott was also one of the first African-Carribean women to receive respectable roles in major Hollywood films.
She was also committed to civil rights. Her activism was primarily focused on the racial injustices that existed in Hollywood. For instance, she declined roles that would portray her as a “singing maid”, a stereotypical stock character for black women.
She also managed to negotiate control of her on-camera image, gaining final cut privileges and utilizing her own wardrobe if she felt the costumes provided to her weren’t to her standards.
For her live tour performances, she refused to perform for segregated audiences, believing that she couldn’t perform for people who’d pay to see her but wouldn’t sit next to someone who looked like her.
Scott’s musical talent and her civil rights activism make her an important part of black history.
This is Hazel Scott’s story.
We’ll be back tomorrow with another Black HerStory post!