Marian Anderson: The First African-American Woman to Perform with Metropolitan Opera in New York

Written by Jae Jones

is known for having one of the most powerful and celebrated classical voices of the 20th century. As a young child Anderson began singing in the church choir at the age of 6-years-old. Once she started singing she didn’t want to stop. She was born on February 27, 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father worked several menial jobs, and her mother was a school teacher before the family moved north. After her father was involved in a fatal accident, Anderson was forced out of school while her mother worked as a laundress at a department store.


Anderson eventually graduated from high school in 1924, despite the difficulties that her family faced. She wanted to enroll in music school but couldn’t because of her race. She applied to Yale University and was accepted, but didn’t have money to attend. Eventually, Anderson caught the attention of Joseph Pasternak who arranged for her to record spirituals for a major recording company.  She was constantly facing discrimination and had to fight constantly against the practice of confining Blacks to a small separate sections in public locations. Anderson became an important figure in the struggle for black artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. Anderson traveled during World War II and the Korean War to meet and entertained troops on base and in hospitals. She met and married architect Orpheus H. Fisher, known as a King in 1943.

It was not until Anderson toured in Europe that her career really began to take off. With the support of international music fellowship, she toured many different countries and studied in Germany. She met Finnish pianist Kosti Vehanen who helped expand her career.


In 1955, she was on of the first African-American women to perform with Metropolitan Opera in New York. Later in 1957, she sang for the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. She traveled 35,000 miles (56,000 km) in 12 weeks, giving 24 concerts. After that, President Eisenhower appointed her as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Anderson worked for several years as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and as a “goodwill ambassadress” for the United States Department of State, giving concerts all over the world. She participated in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and sang for President Kennedy’s inauguration in 1962. Anderson sang for many other affairs such as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. She received many awards and recognition for her work and talent. Even after retirement from singing, she continued to make several appearances. Anderson died of congestive heart failure in 1993, she was 96 years old.








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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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