Marian Anderson, 1897-1993

  • Marian-Anderson-WWP

Woman Category: MusicWoman Tags: African-American Women, Singer, and WDC Metro Area Women

  • HerStory

    A contralto singer, the first African-American singer to perform at the New York’s Metropolitan Opera and to sing at the White House.

    Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From a young age, Anderson displayed a vocal talent and at 6 years old joined the choir of the Union Baptist Church. When she was 8 years old, her father bought her a piano, and she taught herself how to play. Her exceptional talent and involvement in the choir got members of her congregation to raise funds, allowing her to attend a music school for a year, but her application for an all-white music school got rejected because of the color of her skin. At the age of 19, Anderson met Giuseppe Boghetti, who was impressed by her talent and taught her for free.
    Her big breakthrough occurred when she won a singing competition at the age of 28. The prize was a recital with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and afterward, other opportunities followed, including a performance with the Philadelphia Symphony at Carnegie Hall. Still, some options were denied from her because of racial prejudice. At 33, Anderson made her European debut at London’s Wigmore Hall and made a successful European tour, appearing before the monarchs of England, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.
    In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused Anderson to rent their Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C because of her race. In protest, Eleanor Roosevelt and other women resigned from the organization. Instead, Anderson performed at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter morning in front of more than 75,000 people of all colors and broadcast live for millions of radio listeners, and completed a circle when four years later she sang in front of an integrated audience at a DAR event.
    When she was 58 years old, Anderson achieved another historic breakthrough, becoming the first African-American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera. She continued to break barriers when she sang at President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration, as well as President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration and performed for President Kennedy at the White House.

    “Fear is a disease that eats away at logic and makes man inhuman”

    “Fear is a disease that eats away at logic and makes man inhuman”

    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • As a child, her nickname was “Baby Contralto”.
    • During the 1960s, she supported the Civil Rights Movement by giving benefit concerts on various occasions.
    • Her house in Philadelphia became a museum honoring her legacy.


  • More About Her Legacy

    * Presidential Medal of Freedom
    * The National Medal of Arts
    * Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

    No Records Found

    Sorry, no records were found. Please adjust your search criteria and try again.

    Google Map Not Loaded

    Sorry, unable to load Google Maps API.


  • Marian Anderson - Ave Maria

    Born February 27, 1897, in Philadelphia, Marian Anderson displayed vocal talent as a child, but her family could not afford to pay for formal training. Members of her church congregation raised funds for her to attend a music school for a year, and in 1955 she became the first African American singer to perform as a member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

    for more information

    No copyright infringement intended. This video is not my own, instead it belongs to the respective owner(s).

    "Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

  • Photographed by W. Eugene Smith in 1947 while Anderson was resting during one of her recording sessions. Presented at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Photo credit - WWP team.