“When I sing, I don't want them to see that my face is black. I don't want them to see that my face is white. I want them to see my soul. And that is colorless.” Marian Anderson, an African American opera singer, was not only known for her soprano to bass voice range, but also for her positive attitude on being a black singer during the Civil Rights Movement (Bio). Although Marian is not widely known today, her success at such a young age, numerous famous performances, perseverance during the Constitution Hall incident, and her attitude after the incident caused not only Americans, but presidents to look at civil rights differently.
Marian Anderson was born on February 27, 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With Marian’s mother being a former schoolteacher and her father a coal and ice delivery man for the city, the Anderson family was not considered “well-off”. Marian, the oldest of three girls, often competed for attention with her also musically talented sisters. Marian easily won the heart of her father who supported her throughout all of her musical endeavors. Marian joined her church choir at the age of six; in support, her father bought her piano at age eight. His death, when Marian was only twelve years old, left Marian’s mother to bring up three young girls by herself. This event only pushed Marian to practice and perfect her singing talents (Bio).
Marian’s spectacular talents flourished with the support of her family and friends. At fourteen years old, Marian’s choir director, Alexander Robinson, moved her from the youth choir to the adult choir. Robinson was in shock of the young girl’s ability to sing any part of any hymn whenever she was requested to do so. Marian showed so much potential to the congregation of her church that they started a “Marian Anderson’s Future Fund” to help finance lessons for Marian with famous vocal instructors and deliver the care and assistance she needed after her father’s death. With the support of her friends, family, and church congregation, Marian became overwhelmed with the abundance of singing opportunities open for her.
Marian performed many concerts during her time in high school and impressed many people, including her teacher, Dr. Lucy Langdon Wilson. Dr. Wilson coordinated for the famous Italian vocalist Giuseppe Boghetti to hear Marian sing. Boghetti was enthralled with Marian’s singing capabilities. In 1925, he entered Marian in a contest with 300 other vocal contenders. The winner of the contest would be presented with the opportunity to sing a solo with the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. Seventeen-year-old Marian left the judges awe-struck (PBS). Seventeen-year-old Miss Anderson won the contest and made her debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Lewisohn Stadium in New York (Bio).
Shortly after her appearance in New York, Marian embarked on a trip to Europe to perform at the Paris Opera House in France in 1935. King Gustav of Stockholm and King Christian of...