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Birthday of Marian Anderson (1897-1993)
American contralto; first African-American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera (Verdi's "Masked Ball," 1955). Equally gifted in renditions of spirituals and German lieder, Anderson combined her faith and gentle spirit with her uniquely beautiful voice.
The great conductor Toscanini had this to say of Anderson: "Hers is a voice that we hear only once in a hundred years." When her scheduled performance at Constitution Hall was not permitted by the Daughters of the American Revolution (which caused Eleanor Roosevelt to resign from the D.A.R.), Anderson sang instead outdoors at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, 1939 to an audience of 75,000 people. She sang at the inaugurals of Presidents Johnson and Kennedy, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963.
Anderson wrote, "There are many persons ready to do what is right, because in their hearts they know it is right. But they hesitate, waiting for the other fellow to make the first move – and he, in turn, waits for you. The minute a person whose word means a great deal dares to take the open-hearted and courageous way, many others follow. Not everyone can be turned aside from meanness and hatred, but the great majority of Americans is heading in that direction. I have a great belief in the future of my people and my country."
Her autobiography, My Lord, What a Morning gives insight into the spirit of this extraordinary artist.
Marian Anderson: A Life in Song provides video and audio excerpts. The 28th stamp in the United States Postal Service Black Heritage series is dedicated to Anderson. Visit this website to learn more about Anderson's life and extraordinary career.