Anderson, daughter of John and Anna Anderson, was born on February
27, 1897 in Philadelphia, PA. Her mother had been a teacher and her
father sold coal and ice. She began singing with the Union Baptist
Church in Philadelphia when she was six, and in high school sang
with the all-black Philadelphia Choral Society.
It was evident
very early in her singing career that her voice was God-given.
private study with world-famous voice teacher Giuseppe Boghetti,
who assisted her with developing her contralto voice and technical
skills, and encouraged her to master a broad repertoire of art
songs, arias, and spirituals - something for which she became
entered a voice competition with New York Philharmonic in 1925
and won first prize. She then debuted with the New York Philharmonic
in August of that year to critical acclaim. She truly came in to
her own during a European tour in the early 1930's, returning then
to the U.S. to sing at Town Hall and Carnegie Hall in New York.
once described her voice as one "heard once in a hundred years."
1939 Howard University in Washington, DC wanted her to sing a
concert at Constitution Hall, but that request was blocked
by the owners
of the Hall, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR),
because Marian was black. Eleanor Roosevelt was a board member
of the DAR
at the time, and she immediately resigned from this position
and then invited Marian to sing on Easter Sunday 1939 at the
Memorial to an audience of 75,000.
concert, also heard by millions more over the radio, is considered
to have been
the first important victory of the modern civil rights movement.
This was just the beginning of Marian's life-long involvement
in defeating racism and pursuing
a better life
for African Americans in the United States. In January 1955
she debuted as Ulrica in Verdi's A Masked Ball at the Metropolitan
in New York, becoming the first African American to solo with
an alternate delegate from the United States to the United
Nations in 1958, and in 1963 was awarded the
Medal of Freedom. Marian sang at the inagurations of Presidents
Eisenhower and Kennedy, and then retired from singing in
1965. Iin 1978 she
received a Congressional gold medal, in 1984 the Eleanor
Roosevelt Human Rights Award, and in 1991 a Grammy Lifetime
Award. Marian Anderson died in Portland, Oregon on April