Marian Anderson: My Lord, What a Morning

(1956)

Context

On Easter Sunday (April 9) 1939, seventy-five thousand Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to hear the sound of freedom. Young and old, black and white, they braved the elements on an unseasonably cold April afternoon to listen to the soulful voice of Marian Anderson, a forty-three-year-old African American from Philadelphia who had been denied the right to sing at Constitution Hall because she was black.

One of the world’s most popular classical performers, Anderson had established her reputation in Europe during the early 1930s before returning to the United States in December 1935. Following a recital in Salzburg, Austria, in September 1935, the Italian maestro Arturo Toscanini exclaimed that Anderson’s contralto was a voice that “one is privileged to hear only once in a hundred years.” Many American concertgoers and critics came to hold her in similarly high regard, and in February 1936, Anderson interrupted a string of sold-out performances...

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Marian Anderson (Library of Congress)

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