Marian Anderson’s Role in the Civil Rights Movement

CT Humanities | March 20, 2021 

Considered one of the great singers of the 20th century–and her life spanned nearly the entire century–Marian Anderson was an artist who did not seek to become a symbol of civil rights, yet the times and her country made her so.

Born into modest circumstances in South Philadelphia, Anderson’s astonishing contralto voice was recognized in her family’s Baptist church, though she did not begin her formal training until she was 15. In her 1956 autobiography, My Lord, What a Morning, she recounts, without rancor, the prejudice she encountered even as her fame and career grew. She performed in concert halls where blacks could not be seated, traveled to performances in segregated Jim Crow railroad cars and endured humiliations and rejections by white society.