Hazel Scott

June 11, 1920

She was born on June 11, 1920. She and her family immigrated from Trinidad to the United States when she was four. At that age, she was a child prodigy. Her grandmother used to find her alone playing her own arrangements of the lullabies sung to her nightly. At just 8-years-old, she was admitted to Julliard.

As a child, she soon learned what others in her new country thought of her. She was beat up by a gang of white teenagers who demanded money from her. Another time, a white girl, who she thought was her friend, pushed her into a subway trench.

But, she never allowed her difficulties to defeat her.

Her name was Hazel Scott. A new follower had asked recently whether the Peace Page had done a story on her, so in honor of her birthday anniversary, the Peace Page is sharing her story once again, as always with new information.

Although Hazel Scott had paved the way for Nat King Cole, Diahann Carroll, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Oprah Winfrey, she was essentially erased from history after she was blacklisted for daring to speak out against the House Un-American Activities Committee and racism in the country. Her name recently became a popular Google search item after Alicia Keys amazed the audience at the 2019 Grammys playing two pianos and saying she always wanted to do that after she was inspired by – Hazel Scott.

Scott had been known as one of the most talented jazz and classical pianists and singers of her era.

She was the first woman of color to have her own TV show, but because she was so outspoken and such a fighter for racial justice, her show would be quickly cancelled during the McCarthy era, forcing her to move to France.

She became a superstar. She appeared in films, and her television show would be the first to feature an African American female host. Her talent, intelligence, and sophistication inspired many upcoming black artists.

She waged a personal battle against racism and fought the entertainment industry, the federal court system, and even a congressional subcommittee.

Scott warned against “profiteers in patriotism who seek easy money and notoriety at the expense of the nation’s security and peace of mind.”

As an actress, she refused to be cast in roles which would portray her as a maid or a prostitute. She insisted on control over her own wardrobe and refused to wear anything that she felt stereotyped people of color.

As a singer, she refused to perform in segregated venues where blacks were separated from whites, explaining “Why would anyone come to hear me, a Negro and refuse to sit beside someone just like me?”

In personal life, she won a racial discrimination lawsuit against a restaurant who refused to serve her and a friend because “they were Negroes.” Her victory inspired other African Americans to fight racial discrimination in their own communities.

When she was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, she had to defend her statements against racism and her appearances and performances at rallies and fund raisers for various groups and causes. The week after her HUAC appearance, her television show was cancelled.

After being blacklisted, Scott was forced to move to Paris in the late 1950s, befriending other black Americans who had moved there, such as James Baldwin. She returned to the U.S. in 1967, after the Civil Rights Movement led to federal legislation ending racial segregation and enforcing the protection of voting rights.

“The Journal of African American History” wrote in “Hazel Scott: A Career Curtailed” that she was a talented artist who was considered a progressive symbol for African American female entertainers, courageously exhibiting black pride and never backing down.

She said, “Who ever walked behind anyone to freedom? If we can’t go hand in hand, I don’t want to go.”

 

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