Hello History Lovers,
Today we have a treat for you, because... well, this is a treat for US. As much as The Black History Channel loves celebrating little-known African American movers and shakers, we must admit we almost overlooked Ms. Hazel Dorothy Scott. Thank goodness we stumbled across her story again, because now we can tell you about her beauty, her courage, her musical genius, and how she helped shape the music industry.
Hazel was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad on June 11, 1920. Her father was a West African scholar and her mother was a classically trained pianist. She discovered a love and natural talent for the piano at age three, and by age eight (1928) she was so good on the piano that she auditioned for the Julliard School of Music. Of course, students had to be at least 16 years old for enrollment, so Hazel was too young for acceptance. However, since she was endorsed by many wealthy family friends, Julliard gave her the opportunity to at least try. Hazel's stunning rendition of Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C-Sharp Minor” earned her the label of "genius" by one of the school's professors. This in turn earned her a special scholarship to be instructed by Professor Oscar Wagner of Julliard.
When Hazel was in high school, she won a local talent competition and was rewarded with her own radio show. She graduated Wadleigh High School with honors, and not long afterward, she made her way to Broadway. Below is a video of Hazel singing "Autumn Leaves" in French, one of seven languages she was fluent in.
Hazel Scott did so many more amazing things in her life that there is hardly room to list it here. At one time, when singer Billie Holiday ended a standing night club engagement in New York three weeks early, she insisted on having Hazel as her replacement. Hazel appeared in several Broadway productions, then moved to Los Angeles and signed with RKO, a major movie studio. Once signed, it was not long before she was confronted with the racial "strictures" of Hollywood. Perhaps the racial incidences from Hazel's childhood were what led to her resolve to stand up for herself and those of her race. She became so outspoken against racism that she refused to play any role that demeaned black people. Hollywood "bosses" did not like her bucking against their authority. They did not mind allowing Hazel a bit of dignity in her movies but they did not like her standing up for other black cast members, so it was not long before her popularity began to fizzle.
Hazel married preacher and politician Adam Clayton Powell, Jr (after an affair), and gave birth to their son, Adam Clayton Powell, III in 1946. In 1950 she became the first African American woman to host her own television show, The Hazel Scott Show. The show did not last long, but it was still a milestone in African American history. Later, after Hazel and her husband divorced, she took her son and moved to Paris. When she returned ten years later, her style of music had been replaced by the Motown South, which included R&B . She died of pancreatic cancer in 1981.
For more articles on Hazel and her amazing career, see these links:
She Was Once the Biggest Star in Jazz
Hazel Scott: The Gorgeous Face of Jazz at the Mid-Century
"Autumn Leaves" was originally posted at this url - https:/ /www.youtube. com/watch?v=oKlT8aGvDE8&t=50s
"Whatever Happened to Hazel Scott" was originally posted at this url - https:/ /www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_ WJ4PpxWaE&t=277s
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