Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson

American opera singer (contralto)
Date of Birth: 17.02.1902
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Marian Anderson
  2. Early Life and Musical Career
  3. International Success and Racial Discrimination
  4. Later Life and Legacy

Biography of Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson was an American contralto singer with extraordinary talent, which helped her achieve impressive results. Despite the obstacles she faced due to her own skin color and the intolerant attitude towards black people in her native country, Anderson was well-received abroad and eventually earned the respect she deserved at home.

Marian Anderson

Early Life and Musical Career

Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia to John Berkley Anderson, a merchant, and Annie Delilah Rucker. Her mother did not receive a formal education, which prevented her from teaching in Philadelphia due to discriminatory laws that only applied to black individuals. Marian was the oldest of three girls, and her sisters, Alice and Ethel, also became singers.

Marian Anderson

From a young age, Marian showed exceptional vocal talent. Her aunt, who was musically inclined, recognized this and invited Marian to sing in the church choir. Marian often performed solo or in duets with her aunt. She began earning money from her singing at the age of six.

Marian Anderson

After finishing school, Anderson applied to the Philadelphia Music Academy but was rejected because of her race. Undeterred, she studied privately with Giuseppe Boghetti and Agnes Reifsnyder. In 1925, Anderson had her breakthrough when she won a competition held by the New York Philharmonic. As the winner, she had the opportunity to perform with the orchestra, which led to instant popularity.

Marian Anderson

International Success and Racial Discrimination

Despite her success in the United States, racial prejudice hindered Anderson's career. In 1928, she performed for the first time at Carnegie Hall. However, facing limited opportunities in her own country, Anderson decided to travel to Europe, where she was warmly received. In the early 1930s, she toured extensively in Europe, enjoying the absence of the racial intolerance she experienced in America.

During her time in Scandinavia in 1930, Anderson met Finnish pianist Kosti Vehanen, who became her regular accompanist and vocal coach. She also formed a friendship with Jean Sibelius. Despite her success abroad, Anderson continued to perform in America, giving approximately 70 concerts a year. However, she faced discrimination, being denied hotel rooms and access to certain restaurants based on her race.

Albert Einstein, a staunch opponent of racial discrimination, often provided Anderson with shelter. In 1939, Anderson was denied permission to perform in the segregated Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). This decision caused a significant uproar, with Eleanor Roosevelt, among others, publicly condemning the organization's behavior. Eventually, an alternative solution was reached, and Anderson performed a historic concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in front of 75,000 people, with millions more listening on the national radio.

Later Life and Legacy

During World War II and the Korean War, Anderson actively performed for troops in hospitals and military bases. In 1943, she finally performed at Constitution Hall, this time by invitation from the same organization that had previously denied her. In 1943, Anderson married her childhood friend, architect Orpheus H. Fisher. They purchased a property where Fisher built an extensive estate, including a separate studio for Marian's vocal training.

In 1955, Marian Anderson became the first African American singer to perform at the Metropolitan Opera, singing the role of Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi's "Un ballo in maschera." Although she never appeared at the Met again, she was included as a permanent member of the opera company. In 1956, she published her autobiography, "My Lord, What a Morning," which became a bestseller.

In 1965, Anderson retired from singing but continued to engage with the public. Throughout her career, Anderson received numerous prestigious awards, including the National Medal of Arts, the Congressional Gold Medal, and a Grammy Award. In 1980, the Treasury Department issued a gold medal featuring her image, and in 1984, she became the inaugural recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt "Human Rights Award."

Marian Anderson received honorary doctorates from Howard University, Temple University, and Smith College. After her husband's death in 1986, she continued to live in their family residence until 1992. In March 1993, she suffered a stroke, and on April 8, 1993, she passed away from congestive heart failure at the age of 96.

Although her residence was later sold, the studio where Anderson practiced was preserved, relocated, restored, and opened to the public. Visitors can now admire the interiors of the studio, as well as photographs and memorabilia reflecting various stages of Anderson's career.