Considered one of the best contraltos of the 20th century, Marian 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.
Ella Jane Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century, mastered scat singing, had a love of cookbooks, won 13 Grammy Awards, sold over 40 million albums, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967. Her audiences were rich and poor, made up of all races, all religions and all nationalities.
On September 4, 1952, before Brown v. Board of Education case was issued, she and friend, Mollie Ann Meyers, sent their applications to the University of Alabama. Realizing that Lucy and Myers were African American, on September 20, 1952, were told that the university had made a mistake and not welcome. Lucy fought the situation in court with the NAACP for almost three years and won on June 29, 1955.
Mahalia Jackson was born October 26, 1911 in the Black Pearl section New Orleans. Raised by her mother until she was five years old, she grew up in what she called an "old shotgun shack" at Audubon streets between the railroad tracks and the Mississippi River levee. During her lifetime, she would perform for kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers and kept going back to sing in churches for the people who loved her voice first.
Lorraine Hansberry was born the youngest of four to Carl Hansberry and Nannie Hansberry in Chicago, IL on May 19, 1930. She became the first African American, the youngest playwright, the fifth woman to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for the best play of the season on April 7, 1959 for her a play A Raisin in the Sun, which addressed equal rights in work/housing, and freedom.