Marian Anderson was born on February 27, 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She lived in a single rented room with her 2 sisters and parents. When she was six, she sang in a church and was nicknamed "baby contralto." Her neighbors liked the unique sound of her voice so much, they paid for her to go to Guispepe Boghetti, a well-known voice teacher.
When she was studying under Boghetti, she had the chance to sing at the Lewisohn Stadium in New York by entering a contest held by the New York Philharmonic Society. She also received a Julius Rosenwald scholarship allowing her to train abroad in France, Holland, England, the former Soviet Union, and Scandinavia. In 1935, she did a performance at the Salzburg festival. While she was there, she got a compliment from Arturo Toscanini, a famous Italian conductor. He said, "A voice like hers comes only once in a hundred years." She also gained worldwide recognition.
Sol Hurok signed her to tour here in the USA. She got many honors and some were an invitation from President and Mrs. Roosevelt to sing at the White House and the Springarn Medal. In the 1950's, Marian Anderson got more recognition as a talented singer and an influential diplomatic force. In 1955, she won the role of Ulrica in Verdi's A Masked Ball. That made her the first African-American soloist at the Metropolitan Opera. In that same year, she was given the job of goodwill ambassador by the State Department. She had a ten-week concert tour of the South Pacific and Asia in 1957, and it was on the CBS television series called See It Now. She had a concert in Israel in 1955 with the Philharmonic Orchestra. She was a member of the United Nations Trusteeship Committee, and she helped ensure the lives of over 100 million people living in the UN trust territories in Africa and the South Pacific.
In 1961, she went to sing the National Anthem at the ceremony when John F. Kennedy became president. Two years after that, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, by President Kennedy, but actually received it from President Johnson two weeks after Kennedy's assassination. This honor came one year before her farewell concert tour, which she opened at Constitution Hall, and ended on Easter Sunday, 1965 at Carnegie Hall.
She spent her retirement on a 155- acre farm in Danbury, Connecticut until 1992, when she moved in with her nephew, who was Oregon Symphony music director James DePriest. She died there on April 8, 1993 at the age of 96.
Image from the Library of Congress
1999, by Briana, fourth grade