From School Library Journal
Marian Anderson rose from humble beginnings in Philadelphia to become a world-renowned contralto and one of the most prominent African American women of her time. Arsenault (John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History, Univ. of South Florida; Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice
) adds to the large body of literature on Anderson with a book focusing on her iconic 1939 Easter concert. Having been denied the right to perform in Constitution Hall because of its white-performers-only policy, Anderson sang for 75,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Arsenault writes that this was the "first time anyone in the modern civil rights struggle had invoked the symbol of the Great Emancipator in a direct and compelling way," with Anderson striking a historic blow for civil rights. While readers should be aware of Allan Keiler's more general Marian Anderson
or Anderson's own autobiography, My Lord, What a Morning
, Arsenault's book is a good one for serious students of the civil rights movement.—Jason Martin, Univ. of Central Florida Libs., Orlando
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In 1964, the same year the Civil Rights Act was passed, renowned classical and spiritual singer Marian Anderson, at age 67, sang her last concert at Constitution Hall, the same venue that had been denied her in 1939 by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Historian Arsenault examines Anderson’s life from the perspective of her phenomenal musical talent and her iconic image during a time of struggle for racial equality. He traces her humble beginnings in Philadelphia just 35 years after the start of the Civil War. Her amazing contralto voice catapulted her from singing in local church choirs to a circuit of concerts at colleges and music halls. But her rising stature didn’t exempt her in the 1920s and 1930s from the formalized Jim Crow laws of the South and the informal segregation of the North. After travels to Europe, Anderson was hailed by Arturo Toscanini and managed by Sol Hurok. Not an activist by nature, her preeminence in the vaunted world of classical music eventually led to her emergence as a figure in the civil rights struggle. --Vanessa Bush