Marian Anderson: An Easter Sunday Performance at Lincoln Memorial

Marian Anderson, 20th century African American contralto.

Easter Sunday 1939 fell on April 9. Despite the fact that Marian Anderson was regarded as one of the best contraltos of the 20th century, she was still subject to racial bias.

Denied the opportunity to perform at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall because of her race, Anderson performed at the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 75,000 in Washington, D.C.

Hailed as a defining moment in the history of civil rights in the United States, her performance inspired then 10-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. to later publish an oratorical describing the experience.

Accompanied by a piano, Anderson serenaded an integrated crowd with “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” The entire concert lasted 25 minutes, was broadcast live on the radio, arranged in part by Eleanor Roosevelt with the support of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Marian Anderson was born February 27, 1897 in South Philadelphia to John and Annie Anderson. Her father sold ice and coal at the Reading Terminal Market, and her mother, Annie, made a living as a nanny.

She began to sing at Union Baptist Church at the corner of Fitzwater and Martin Streets. There, her strong contralto voice and three-octave range brought her notice from at least the age of six.

In 1925, voice teacher Giuseppe Boghetti, entered Marian in a contest for a solo appearance with the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. Anderson won first prize, becoming its first African American soloist. She made her European debut at the Paris Opera House in 1935.

I liked the key of the E flat for bright songs, and I was attracted to the key of the D flat because it was so flattering for a low voice like mine. D flat made me think of velvet.

Nationally, Marion Anderson broke barriers. She was the first African American artist to sign with RCA Victor Recording Company. Her first record featured spirituals “Deep River” and “My Way’s Cloudy.” In 1955 when she became the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera.

Marian Anderson died of congestive heart failure on April 8, 1993. Throughout her career, she was forced to go up the freight elevators in the hotels and to eat alone in her room because she wasn’t welcome in the hotel dining room. 

Singing in the presence of other people seemed to me a normal activity all through the years of growing up. I loved to sing. I liked to have other people listen and was likewise glad to hear others perform. I think I am honest in saying that there was no desire to be a show-off.

Like this post? Stop by and read Ella Fitzgerald: A Night at the Apollo." Ella Fitzgerald was born just as jazz was beginning to develop into a distinct art form. She mastered scat singing, a vocal improvisation using words, syllables and parts of other songs. She won 13 Grammy Awards, sold over 40 million albums, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967.

I'd love to have you as a customer, head to the online store and shop for handcrafted beaded jewelry by beYOUteous.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published