Marian Anderson: The Voice That Conquered Prejudice and Discrimination

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Marian Anderson: The Voice That Conquered Prejudice and Discrimination

Marian Anderson is one of the most illustrious contraltos of the 20th century, who not only gained worldwide fame for her mesmerizing voice but also made history for her exceptional talent and contribution to the civil rights movement. Throughout her remarkable career, she faced many obstacles due to her race and gender, but her indomitable spirit and immense talent allowed her to conquer all barriers and pave the way for generations of black artists to come.

Early Life and Career:

Marian Anderson was born on February 27, 1897, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to John and Anna Anderson, who were devout Christians and admired music. Marian was blessed with life-long keenness and talent for singing, and at the age of six, she joined the choir at the Union Baptist Church, where she honed her outstanding singing skills. She continued to perform at various church concerts and community events, which earned her a reputation as a gifted singer.

Despite facing insurmountable odds due to racial discrimination, Anderson soon became one of the most sought-after artists of her time, thanks to her considerable contribution to the classical music genre. She was unparalleled in singing works of composers like Brahms, Schubert, and Schumann, and her unique and striking contralto voice enthralled audiences worldwide.

Challenges and Achievements:

Although Marian Anderson’s beautiful voice was celebrated worldwide, she confronted immense racial prejudice and discrimination during her early career. Despite her immense talent, Anderson was initially discriminated against by many prestigious concert halls and orchestras in the United States because of her skin color. However, her unwavering will and talent conquered all negativity, and her famous concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 played a significant role in advancing the civil rights movement.

Anderson’s concert was initially planned at the Washington Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), but the organization refused to give her permission to perform due to their racist policies. Her exclusion from the DAR led to widespread protests across the nation, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the organization in protest. The whole controversy received nationwide media attention, which ultimately prompted the federal government’s intervention.

As a result, Anderson was invited to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to an audience of over 75,000 people, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in April 1939. Anderson delivered a powerful performance, which included the famous spiritual “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” Her concert was a significant milestone for the civil rights movement and proved that black artists were equally talented and deserving of the same opportunities as their white counterparts.


Marian Anderson’s remarkable talent and steadfast resolve paved the way for numerous black artists to break barriers in the music industry. Her inspiring legacy continues to inspire millions of people worldwide, and her contribution to the civil rights movement remains unparalleled. Anderson received numerous accolades throughout her career, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, the Kennedy Center Honor in 1978, and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.

In conclusion, Marian Anderson’s legacy as a groundbreaking artist and civil rights icon continues to inspire people worldwide. Her awe-inspiring voice and unwavering resolve rallied for freedom, equality, and justice, and she stands as a beacon of hope for generations to come.

Marian Anderson: The Voice That Conquered Prejudice and Discrimination

Marian Anderson was a renowned African-American contralto who rose to fame in the early 20th century. Despite facing discrimination and prejudice, she became a trailblazer in the music industry and a symbol of hope and progress for the civil rights movement. Her exceptional talent and unwavering determination continue to inspire people around the world, and her legacy lives on as a testament to the power of music to transcend barriers and unite people from all walks of life.

In this blog post, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Marian Anderson, her life, and her contributions to the world of music and beyond.

1. Who was Marian Anderson, and what made her famous?

Marian Anderson was an American contralto singer born in Philadelphia in 1897. She began her singing career as a child and rose to prominence in the early 20th century, earning critical acclaim for her powerful and soulful voice. Anderson’s most famous performance was at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 when she sang for an audience of 75,000 people after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her perform at Constitution Hall because of her race.

2. What was the significance of Anderson’s performance at the Lincoln Memorial?

Anderson’s performance at the Lincoln Memorial was a turning point in the civil rights movement and a powerful symbol of the struggle for equality and justice for all. The fact that she had to perform outside of a major venue because of her race highlighted the discrimination and prejudice that African Americans faced in the United States.

Her performance at the Lincoln Memorial, however, was not just a protest against discrimination. It was a celebration of music’s ability to break down barriers and bring people together, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or background.

3. How did Anderson’s performance at the Lincoln Memorial impact her career?

Anderson’s performance at the Lincoln Memorial catapulted her to fame and made her an icon of the civil rights movement. Her message of hope and unity resonated with people around the world, and she became a symbol of progress and change. Anderson continued to tour and perform throughout her career, earning numerous accolades and honors for her singing.

4. What other barriers did Anderson break down in her career?

Anderson was also one of the first African-American singers to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, breaking down yet another barrier in the music industry. She paved the way for other African-American artists, both in classical music and in other genres, and demonstrated that talent, hard work, and perseverance can overcome even the most entrenched prejudices and discrimination.

5. What was Anderson’s involvement in the civil rights movement?

Anderson was an active supporter of the civil rights movement and used her fame and influence to advocate for social justice and equality. She performed at numerous benefit concerts for civil rights organizations and was a vocal opponent of segregation and discrimination. She was also a friend and mentor to many other civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr.

6. What is Anderson’s legacy today?

Anderson’s legacy today is a testament to the power of music to inspire, unite, and transform. Her exceptional talent and unwavering dedication to her craft continue to inspire musicians and fans around the world, and her contributions to the civil rights movement serve as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for social justice and equality. Anderson’s life and career are a shining example of courage, perseverance, and the enduring power of the human spirit to overcome adversity and triumph over even the greatest obstacles.

In conclusion, Marian Anderson was not only a pioneer in the world of music but also a social activist who used her voice to effect change and promote social justice. Her experiences as an African-American singer and the barriers she faced throughout her career have inspired generations of musicians and activists to pursue their dreams and fight for equality and human rights. Anderson remains a source of inspiration and hope for all those who believe in the transformative power of music and the enduring human spirit.

Marian Anderson: The Voice That Conquered Prejudice and Discrimination

Music has the power to move souls and cross boundaries. As a genre, classical music upholds an aura of sophistication, discipline, and elegance. But, like any other industry, the music world has always been a ground for discrimination and prejudice. Racism and gender biases are still present, but every now and then, there are voices that come and break the barriers. Such is the case of Marian Anderson, the voice that conquered prejudice and discrimination in the classical music industry.

Early Life and Career

Marian Anderson was born on February 27, 1897, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the oldest of three daughters born to John and Anna Anderson, who were both devout Christians. Her father, an ice and coal salesman, and her mother, a former teacher, were determined to provide the best education possible for their daughters. Marian attended South Philadelphia High School for Girls, where she graduated in 1921.

In 1925, Anderson won a singing competition sponsored by the New York Philharmonic, which led to a performance at Lewisohn Stadium in New York. Her performance was so impressive that she was invited to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, making her the first African-American singer to perform there. However, the opportunity was withdrawn due to racial discrimination.

Breaking Barriers

Despite the setback, Anderson did not allow the discrimination to dampen her spirit. She continued to sing in concerts, and in 1939, she was invited to sing at the Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. However, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), who owned the hall, refused to allow her to perform there because of her race.

The news of the DAR’s decision spread, and it sparked outrage and protests from people across the country, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She resigned from the DAR, and together with her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, arranged for Anderson to perform at the Lincoln Memorial instead, on Easter Sunday of that year.

On that historic day, more than 75,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to watch Anderson perform. Her performance of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” and other songs became a symbol of hope, perseverance, and resistance against discrimination.


Anderson’s legacy has far-reaching effects, not only in the classical music industry but also in the civil rights movement. Her refusal to be defeated by discrimination inspired many others to fight against racial and gender barriers.

In recognition of her contributions to American culture and society, Marian Anderson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. She served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United States in the 1950s, and she was also a recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1986.


Marian Anderson’s voice was not only a gift to the classical music industry, but also to humanity. Her artistry, strength, and determination in the face of discrimination are a source of inspiration and hope for many. We should continue to celebrate her legacy and use her story as a reminder that we should always strive for equality and justice.

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Marian Anderson: The Voice That Conquered Prejudice and Discrimination