Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson / William Henry Johnson /c. 1945,  Oil on paperboard /Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of the Harmon FoundationAccessed: Re-used for educational use according to the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use.

Marian Anderson, New York / Irving Penn / 1948, Gelatin silver print / Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania Libraries. 
© The Irving Penn Foundation Accessed: Re-used for educational use according to the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use.

American Singer and Diplomat • 1897-1993 • Western Classical Music and African-American Spirituals

Fast Facts

  • Born February 27, 1897 in Philadelphia, PA 
  • Became a choir member at her church at 6 years old, nicknamed “Baby Contralto”
  • Choir members raised money to send her to train with well-known voice teacher Giuseppe Boghetti
  • Toured extensively through Europe 
  • Invited by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to perform at the White House, becoming the first African-American to receive that honor
  • Denied the opportunity to perform at Constitution Hall by Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) on account of her race
  • Her rejection from the DAR caused an uproar, leading Eleanor Roosevelt to publicly withdraw her own DAR membership and work to secure a performance for Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, 1939, which became one of Anderson’s most famous performances 
  • Sang at the inauguration of both Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy Jr. 
  • Sang at the 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech
  • First African-American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955

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