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Fri, 06.11.1920

Exceptional talent and appeal, Hazel Scott

Hazel Scott

Hazel Scott was born on this date in 1920. She was a Black singer, actress, and musician.

She was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Under the guidance of her mother, Alma, she began playing piano at the age of two.  Young Scott began formal music training after the family had moved to the United States in 1924. She made her formal American debut at New York’s Town Hall two years later, and by 1929, Scott had acquired six scholarships to Julliard School of Music in New York City.  Unfortunately she was 14, under age to be admitted to the school, which admitted only those 16 or over. In the meantime, Scott joined her mother's All-Woman Orchestra, playing piano and trumpet.

By the time she was 16, in 1936, Hazel Scott was a radio star on the Mutual Broadcasting System and playing at the Roseland Dance Hall with the Count Basie Orchestra. In the late 1930s, she appeared in the Broadway musical "Singing Out the News," and after that, "Priorities of 1942." Scott’s film credits include "Something to Shout About," "I Dood it," "Tropicana," and "The Heat’s On," all in 1943; "Broadway Rhythm" (1944), and "Rhapsody in Blue" (1945). During this time in one of the year’s most fabulous social events, Scott married the popular preacher and politician Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., though they separated several times and divorced in 1956.

During the early 1950s, she became one of the first Black women to have her own television show.  But because of her work against racial discrimination and McCarthyism--the intense, House Un-American Committee came to bear the name of its chief author Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy--she was accused of being a communist and her show was canceled. Scott defended her position in fund-raising events, fighting for groups in the name of equal rights. She was widely recognized for her efforts in the struggle for racial freedom and justice. She was once quoted: “What justification can anyone have who comes to hear me and then objects to sitting next to another Negro?” (Washington Post 1970).

In 1967, after living in Paris, she returned to America and appeared on the television shows "Julia" and "The Bold Ones." In 1978, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. Hazel Scott continued to perform until her death in 1981.

Reference:
Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

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