Let Her Sing!

Marian Anderson
Marian Anderson

January 7, 1955
Marian Anderson Performed at the Metropolitan Opera

As a teenager, Marian Anderson worked at low-paying jobs in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in order to earn money for her singing lessons. Do you think she ever dreamed of performing at the Metropolitan Opera (“the Met”) in New York City? If she did, the support of her family and community helped make that dream become a reality. On January 7, 1955, she became the first African American to perform at the Met, America’s most highly esteemed opera house. Anderson sang the role of a fortuneteller in an opera by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, called Un Ballo in Maschera (“A Masked Ball”).

Although Marian Anderson faced racial prejudice throughout her career, she overcame it through perseverance. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution barred her from singing in its auditorium in Washington, D.C. In protest, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the organization and helped arrange for Anderson to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. More than 75,000 people showed up.

Anderson had a remarkable career, appearing in concerts and recitals across the U.S. and in Europe. One orchestra conductor remarked that “a voice like hers comes only once in a century.”

Perhaps, like Marian Anderson, you have a dream that will take much determination to make a reality. Other singers, such as the blind singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder, have also made their dreams come true despite challenges. Marian Anderson received many awards and honors throughout her life, including the U.S. National Arts Medal in 1986, which she won for her magnificent singing and for helping to break the color barrier for African American performers.