Hazel Scott may not now be a household name, but her success in the world of entertainment was amazing nevertheless. On this day in 1950, Scott became the first woman of color to host a televised network series. The Hazel Scott Show made its debut on the now-defunct DuMont Network, a daring move for the fledgling network considering the racial tension of the times.
Hazel Dorothy Scott was born on June 11, 1920 in Port Of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. At the age of four, she came to live in the United States with her mother. A gifted child pianist, the young prodigy was awarded scholarships to the prestigious Julliard School of Music. Her classical training morphed into performing, and she joined a band in her teens. In the 1930s and 40s, Scott’s talent as a jazz artist gained her international acclaim. Scott was sought after for her piano playing and singing skills, thrilling audiences of all kinds.
She was versatile too, able to play jazz, blues, ballads, show tunes and classical music. She also began dabbling in acting on Broadway, making her screen debut in 1943 in the film Something To Shout About. Most notably, she acted alongside the legendary Lena Horne in Broadway Rhythm the following year. Scott also appeared as herself in the George Gershwin biopic Rhapsody in Blue in 1945.
The Hazel Scott Show was a 15-minute musical and variety show that aired three times a week at 7:45 PM. Critics gushed over Scott’s talent, and Variety magazine hailed the show as “engaging.” A staunch advocate of civil rights, Scott was known to refuse “mammy” or subservient roles that made her appear lesser than she was.