When her family migrated from Trinidad to Harlem, Hazel Scott was already on her way to stardom. Her mother was a classically trained pianist, and Scott’s childhood home was a mecca of Black music for artists like Fats Waller. Scott was ready to take the industry by storm, but would she be welcomed?
Only if she kept quiet! In Hollywood, thinly veiled racism tried to stop her, but she refused. Once, Scott went on a three-day strike demanding Columbia Pictures to change the rag-like dresses Black actresses wore! And even when more trouble arose, her energy for our people remained the same.
Scott refused to play for segregated audiences, automatically canceling segregated shows without forfeiting her pay. She would only play herself in films – in resistance to the subservient roles she was typically offered. Despite all of her fame, there’s a reason most of us haven’t heard of Hazel Scott.
In 1950, the House Un-American Activities Committee accused her of being a communist! Though she firmly defended herself in court, her primetime TV show was canceled, her career suffered, and her legacy was tarnished.
Despite the racist hurdles she faced, Scott never lost her positive self-image or stopped fighting for her people. Even when they try to smear Black legacies, we must always be willing to speak truth to power about our history!