Marian Anderson
Marian 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. She took 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 famous. Marian 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. Toscanini once described her voice as one "heard once in a hundred years."

In 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 Lincoln Memorial to an audience of 75,000.

This concert, also heard by millions more over the radio, is considered by some historians 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 Opera Company in New York, becoming the first African American to solo with the company.

Marian was an alternate delegate from the United States to the United Nations in 1958, and in 1963 was awarded the Presidential 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 Achievement Award. Marian Anderson died in Portland, Oregon on April 8, 1993.


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