Marian Anderson: A Singer's Journey by Allan Keiler
The only definitive biography of the legendary singer, "arguably the greatest contralto of this century" (The New York Times) and a seminal figure in the American civil rights movement, Marian Anderson is written with the full cooperation of her family and unprecedented access to her life.
Born in Philadelphia in 1897, Marian Anderson revealed her prodigious talent at an early age. While still a child, she was singing for audiences in her hometown. Despite her astonishing musical gift, poverty and racial bigotry presented obstacles to her musical education and career. With the help of friends and fellowships to study abroad, first in London and then Berlin, she achieved success throughout Europe, eventually attracting the attention of the famous American impresario, Sol Hurok. Nearly forty years old, she returned to the United States as a concert artist already famous overseas. In only a few seasons under Hurok's management, she became as famous in the United States as in Europe.
In 1939, when the Daughters of the American Revolution denied Anderson the use of Constitution Hall on racial grounds, Eleanor Roosevelt's highly publicized resignation from the D.A.R. catapulted Anderson into national prominence as a symbol of the struggle for racial equality. The incident led to Anderson's historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial before a vast throng of 75,000 a defining moment in American history. On January 7, 1955, Anderson made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, the first black singer to appear on its stage. Among her many honors, she received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, the National Arts Medal, the Congressional Medal of Freedom, and nearly thirty honorary doctorates. On the centenary of her birth, The New York Times declared that "Miss Anderson's place as the high priestess of American musicians, whatever their color, is not to be denied."
As the culmination of his lifelong fascination with Marian Anderson, Allan Keiler has superbly documented the life of this guarded public figurewho is still revered today. He has enhanced the history of both American music and the civil rights movement by illuminating the life of one of the century's greatest artists.