In honor of Black History Month, we at Vision 2020 are honoring an African-American woman who paved the way for other women to demonstrate their talents and share them with the world, shaping America as we see it today. Today in history we honor opera singer Marian Anderson. Anderson was born on Feb. 17, 1902, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her vocal abilities were recognized at a young age as she was nicknamed the “Baby Contralto.” When she was 15 years old, Anderson began voice lessons with renowned soprano, Mary Saunders Patterson. During high school, she was able to meet vocal teacher, Guiseppe Boghetti.
Although Anderson’s talents were well beyond her years, she faced many setbacks due to her race. In 1939, she was unable to rent Washington, D.C.’s Constitutional Hall for a concert due to their “concert by white artists only”, clause set in 1935. Outraged by the news, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution, owners of the hall.
Due to Roosevelt and several other protestors’ actions, on April 9, Anderson sang, “My Country Tis of Thee” before 75,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Shortly after, she was able to give a private concert at the White House for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, King George VI, and Queen Elizabeth.
Anderson’s legacy goes far beyond her musical abilities. In 1958, she became a delegate to the United Nations and in 1972 she was awarded the UN Peace Prize.
The opera singer was known for dealing with racism in a quiet manner.
“If I were inclined to be combative, I suppose I might insist on making an issue of these things. But that is not my nature, and I always bear in mind that my mission is to leave behind me the kind of impression that will make it easier for those who follow,” Anderson said.
Anderson died at the age of 91 on April 8, 1993, in Portland, Oregon. Today her legacy continues.
To learn more about her legacy visit: http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihoihio/ande-mar.htm