Marian Anderson gave her first public performance at the age of 6, wowing the congregation at her Baptist church. The community believed in Anderson’s gift so completely that it sponsored her voice lessons. None of them could have guessed that the young Anderson would grow up to be the first black artist invited to entertain at the White House and to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
Before retiring in 1965, she made concert tours throughout the world and appeared in all the leading concert halls. Anderson is represented in a mural at the Department of the Interior, commemorating the Easter Sunday 1939 concert in which she sang for 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial after being barred, because of her race, from performing in Washington’s Constitution Hall. Five years later, Anderson was invited to sing in Constitution Hall at a benefit for Chinese relief. She also performed at the inaugurations of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.
In 1957, Anderson toured the Far East as a goodwill ambassador and, a year later, she was appointed United States Delegate to the United Nations by President Eisenhower.
She received decorations from Sweden, the Philippines, Haiti, Liberia, France, Finland, and numerous cities and states in America, including the Bok Award, the Springarn Medal and numerous honorary degrees. She was named to the National Council of Arts in 1966 and received a lifetime-achievement Grammy award in 1991.
She died in 1993 at the age of 96.