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Marian Anderson Collection, 1939-2000

 File — Box: 4265.004, oversize-folder: 2

Scope and Contents

The collection contains material featuring Marian Anderson, including an autographed concert program from her 19 December 1939 concert in Louisville, Kentucky, a copy of the April 1947 Ebony magazine featuring her country "hideaway," four newspaper clippings, and a few miscellaneous catalog entries. The autographed program is from the 1939-1940 season of the Louisville Community Concert Association and gives texts for each of the songs, lieder, and spirituals she performed that night. The Ebony magazine has a five-page article titled "A Day at Marian Anderson's Country Hideaway" and showcases her home "Marianna," a 105-acre country estate in Connecticut. The newspaper clippings are: "A Musical Tribute to a Legend" by Eleanor Blau (The New York Times, The Living Arts section, p.13, 15 August 1989), describing a concert given in her honor to raise money for the establishment of a Marian Anderson Award for promising singers; a "Grounded in Faith, Free to Fly" by James DePreist (The New York Times, p. 23+, 18 April 1993), which is a tribute to Anderson after her death written by her nephew; and "A Symbol in Spite of Herself" by Anthony Heilbut (The New York Times Book Review, p. 17, 2 April 2000), reviewing a biography about Anderson, Marian Anderson: A Singer's Journey, by Allan Keiler (New York: Scribner, 2000); as well as an April 9, 1993, New York Times obituary of Anderson. The collection also includes two catalog entries for signed, framed photographs of Anderson in costume.


  • 1939-2000

Language of Materials

From the Collection: Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to portions of this collection has been restricted by Archives and Special Collections in order to preserve the original materials. Contact University Libraries Special Collections at or 205.348.0500 for information on access to the restricted portions of this collection.

The rest of the collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Biographical / Historical

Marian Anderson, born on 27 February 1897, the eldest of three daughters, to John Berkley and Annie Delilah Anderson, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was an American contralto and one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century. Famed conductor Arturo Toscanini once told her she had a voice "heard once in a hundred years." Most of her singing career was spent performing in concert and recital in major music venues and with major orchestras throughout the United States and Europe between 1925 and 1965. Although she was offered contracts to perform roles with many important European opera companies, Anderson declined all of these, preferring to perform in concert and recital only. However, she did perform opera arias within her concerts and recitals. She made many recordings that reflected her broad performance repertoire of everything from concert literature to lieder to opera to traditional American songs and spirituals. An African-American, Anderson became an important figure in the struggle for black artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States during the mid twentieth century. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. Their race-driven refusal propelled Anderson into the international spotlight on a level usually found only by high profile celebrities and politicians. With the aid of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, in 1939 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions. She continued to break barriers for black artists in the United States, becoming the first black person, American or otherwise, to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on 7 January 1955. Her performance as Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi's Un ballo in maschera at the Met was the only time she sang an opera role on stage. In 1943, she was at last invited by the DAR to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall to benefit the American Red Cross. Anderson said she had no sense of triumph, just that it was a beautiful hall and was happy to be singing there. Also in 1943, Anderson married architect Orpheus H. Fisher in Bethel, Connecticut. Together they purchased a 100-acre farm in Danbury, Connecticut, and named it Marianna Farm. It remained Anderson's home for more than 50 years. Anderson was also an important symbol of grace and beauty during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, singing at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. She also worked for several years as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and as a "goodwill ambassadress" for the U.S. State Department. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Anderson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the National Medal of Arts in 1986, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991. Anderson's husband, Orpheus Fisher, died in 1986, after 43 years of marriage. She remained at Marianna Farm until 1992, and although the property was sold to developers, various preservationists as well as the City of Danbury, fought to protect the studio Fisher had designed especially for Anderson. They were successful and the Danbury Museum and Historical Society received a grant to relocate and restore the structure. It opened to the public in 2004. At the age of 96, Marian Anderson died of congestive heart failure on 8 April 1993 in Portland, Oregon, at the home of her nephew, conductor James DePreist. She was interred at Eden Cemetery, in Collingwood, Pennsylvania. Source: Wikipedia contributors, "Marian Anderson," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 18, 2011).


From the Collection: 3.8 Linear Feet


Formerly MSS.3209, Marian Anderson Collection, and part of MSS.2300, More Wade Hall Papers

Local Identifier

u0003_0003209, u0003_0002300

Processing Information

MSS.3209 processed by Martha Bace, 2011.

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266