Hazel Dorothy Scott, a Trinidadian-born jazz and classical pianist and singer, left an indelible mark on both the music industry and the fight against racial discrimination. Born in 1920, Scott’s prodigious talent at the piano was evident from a young age, leading her to perform on radio and in prestigious venues by her mid-teens.
However, it wasn’t just her musical prowess that defined her career; it was her unwavering stance against racial injustice. In an era marred by segregation and discrimination, Scott fearlessly confronted the status quo. Refusing to perpetuate demeaning stereotypes, she rejected Hollywood roles that relegated black women to subservient positions, notably turning down four offers to play a “singing maid.”
Scott’s commitment to equality extended beyond the silver screen. While on tour, she adamantly refused to perform in segregated venues, a stance that once led to her being escorted from Austin, Texas, by Texas Rangers when she discovered patrons were segregated by race.
Her activism extended to the political sphere as well. During the McCarthy era, Scott was falsely accused of being a communist—a tactic often used to silence dissenting voices. Undeterred, she boldly denounced these accusations before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, highlighting the injustice of baseless attacks on entertainers.
Scott’s legacy is one of extraordinary musical talent intertwined with unyielding activism. As one of the first black women to achieve prominence in both the music and film industries, she paved the way for future generations of artists while fearlessly advocating for equality and justice. Hazel Dorothy Scott’s contributions as a musician and civil rights champion continue to inspire and resonate to this day.