Pigs do not know what a pen is for. United States (Black Communities)
1897 – Marian Anderson was born
When I was in my teens, my aunt-mother Ettie took me to hear Marion Anderson at the Ward Theatre in Kingston, Jamaica. This theatre has seating on three levels, and that night I was on the level that felt so high we called it “in the gods”. After climbing all those stairs, I stood for the entire concert. Still, as far as I was concerned, I had the best spot in the house – probably seeing and hearing better than most. Her presence filled the house, and her voice filled my heart then as much as it does now.
Marion Anderson's life showed she did not believe in containment of her talent or herself as a Black woman born just three decades after slavery ended. She was an outstanding singer who performed at concert and recital venues all over the US and Europe. She was also an activist who continually broke barriers for Black artists and stood up for equal rights for all.
In 1955, she became the first Black person to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
She was active in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s and sang at the 1963 March on Washington. For many years she was a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the “goodwill ambassador” for the United States Department of State.
Anderson joined her church choir when she was six years old, often performing at local functions. Her family could not afford to send her to high school or to pay for her music lessons, so she sought out opportunities to learn singing from anyone who would teach her for free. She therefore continued her involvement in her church choir and joined other singing groups as well. Eventually, her church and a singing group helped to raise money to allow her to have singing lessons and attend high school.
An all-white music school refused her entry, but she continued her studies nonetheless, with the support of the Black community. In 1925 she won a prize that allowed her to perform with the New York Philharmonic, and this was the start of her career as a singer. She continued to encounter race prejudice in the US, but was a favorite in Europe.
Among her many honors are a United Nations Peace Prize and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
She died at age 96.
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