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Anderson, Marian, 1897-1993

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: February 2, 1897 - April 8, 1993

Biographical Information

Marian Anderson (1897-1993) was a famous American contralto vocalist. Born in South Philadelphia, Anderson's church choirmaster and school teachers recognized her extraordinary singing talents early on. At age seventeen, she performed with the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. In 1935, she had her European debut at the Paris Opera House and that same year performed at Carnegie Hall in New York. In 1936, she became the first African American invited to perform at the White House.

Despite her fame, Anderson faced overt racism throughout the United States. One highly publicized instance was in 1939 when the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused her accommodation at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. Eleanor Roosevelt, a member of the organization, resigned in protest. As a response, Roosevelt and a committee in support of Anderson arranged for her to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939, Easter Sunday, to an integrated audience of 75,000 people. Anderson's success and recognition continued and in 1955, she became the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera.

Throughout her life, Anderson earned many awards including over two dozen honorary doctorates and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Anderson's final performance was in 1965 at Carnegie Hall in New York. After this final performance, Anderson and her husband, Orpheus Fisher, settled on a farm in Connecticut. She died on April 8, 1993.

Citation

Marian Anderson: Musical icon. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Retrieved from: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/eleanor-anderson/

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