Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was an American contralto. Anderson joined a junior church choir at the age of six and applied to an all-white music school after her graduation from high school in 1921 but was turned away because she was black. She continued her singing studies with a private teacher and debuted with the New York Philharmonic on August 26, 1925, scoring immediate success, on stage and with the critics.

In 1928, she sang for the first time at Carnegie Hall. Her reputation was further advanced by her tour through Europe in the early 1930s where she did not encounter the racial prejudices she had experienced in America. Anderson’s most famous concert, held on Easter Sunday in 1939 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, attracted a crowd of more 75,000 of all colors and was a sensation with a national radio audience of millions. Anderson symbolized the civil rights movement with dignity and grace; she was the first African American to be named a permanent member of Metropolitan Opera Company and was a frequent performer at the White House. During World War II and the Korean War, Marian Anderson participated by entertaining the troops in hospitals and bases. By 1956, she had performed over one thousand times.