Photo credits: Erich Auerbach/Getty Images
Marian Anderson (pictured), a multi-award-winning contralto, was one of the initial recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors on Dec. 2, 1978.
Anderson was born on February 27, 1897. She was the first Black singer to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DRA) refused to allow her to perform at Constitution Hall. Eleanor Roosevelt, the former First Lady of the United States, resigned from the DRA organization as a result of this.
Anderson’s management worked with President Roosevelt, then-NAACP Secretary Walter White, and Anderson’s manager to schedule her performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Anderson sang “My Country, It Is of Thee” as well as other songs.
She was eventually invited to sing at Constitution Hall in 1943 as part of a fundraiser for the American Red Cross. Throughout World War II and the Korean War, she entertained troops in hospitals and on bases. Anderson also played during Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy’s inaugurations.
In 1963, she sang during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Anderson died of congestive heart failure in 1993. She lived a good life, which fulfilled a rich sense of accomplishment. In 1998, the illustrious Marian Anderson Award was created in her esteem.
This accolade was established to recognize the careers of internationally known artists and their significant and honorable societal effects.