The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights

The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights


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Marian Anderson Loved to Sing. Her deep, rich voice thrilled audiences the world over. By the mid-1930s she was a famed vocalist who had been applauded by European royalty, welcomed at the White House, and adored by appreciative listeners in concert halls across the United States. But because of her race, she was denied the right to sing at Constitution Hall, Washington's largest and finest auditorium. Though Marian Anderson was not a crusader or a spokesperson by nature, her response to this injustice catapulted her into the center of the civil rights movement of the time. She came to stand for all black artists -- and for all Americans of color -- when, with the help of prominent figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, she gave a landmark performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that broke racial barriers and hastened the end of segregation in the arts.

Drawing on Anderson's own writings and other first-person accounts, Newbery medalist Russell Freedman shows readers a singer pursuing her art in the context of the social and political climate of the day. Profusely illustrated with contemporary photographs, here is an inspiring account of the life of a talented, determined artist who left her mark on musical and social history. Russell Freedman was aware that Marian Anderson was one of the great vocal artists of the 20th century. He hadn't thought of writing a book about her, however, until he found out about the encounter between her and Eleanor Roosevelt that led to the Lincoln Memorial concert and established Anderson as a seminal figure in the civil rights movement. Mr. Freedman is the acclaimed author of more than 40 nonfiction books for young people, He is also the recipient of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his body of work. Mr. Freedman lives in New York City

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781419339738
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 05/16/2005
Product dimensions: 4.25(w) x 2.75(h) x 6.30(d)
Age Range: 10 - 12 Years

About the Author

Russell Freedman received the Newbery Medal for LINCOLN: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY. He is also the recipient of three Newbery Honors, the Sibert Medal, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and was selected to give the 2006 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. Mr. Freedman lives in New York City.

Table of Contents

1Easter Sunday, April 9, 19391
2Twenty-five Cents a Song5
3A Voice in a Thousand21
4Marian Fever33
5Banned by the DAR47
6Singing to the Nation59
7Breaking Barriers71
8"What I Had Was Singing"91
Chapter Notes95
Selected Bibliography101
Selected Discography105
Acknowledgments and Picture Credits107

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"a fully realized portrait of a musical artist and her outstanding, handsome biography. Freedman at his best." KIRKUS REVIEWS, starred reviews Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"Freedman provides thrilling accounts...copious quotes...allow her resonant voice—and personal grace—to fill these pages...An engrossing biography." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review Publishers Weekly, Starred

"This inspiting work once again demonstrates Freedman's talent for showing how a person's life is molded by its historical and cultural context." SLJ School Library Journal, Starred

"In his signature prose, plain yet eloquent. Freedman tells Anderson's triumphant story . . . Older readers and adults will want this too." BOOKLIST Booklist, ALA

"Freedman offers the story of a movement encapsulated in the biography of an extraordinary African-American woman." BCCB Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"a masterful biography...The prose is sharp and clean with generous use of quotations...a superb choice." VOYA VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

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The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Jmmott on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Freedman creates exceptionally intelligent books for students to read. The research to make this book complete and engaging is obvious in the selection of photos spanning from when Marian Anderson was just beginning to perform as a child to onstage in a Verdi opera. Inseparable from her music career is the struggle for equal rights. From being refused the right to perform at Constitution Hall to being introduced by Icke, she brought the question of race to the forefront, and clearly illustrated that talent did not depend upon race. This could be a really good additional resource for either an American History class or a music appreciation course. One should also check out her music on as her vocal range is one of the most impressive in history.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marian Anderson was an internationally acclaimed singer in the 1930s and '40s. Internationally acclaimed, and yet she still couldn't book some venues in the United States because she was black. In this fascinating biography, Freedman explores Anderson's life from her under-resourced roots in Philadelphia to her friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt to her success performing in countries around the world. I didn't know anything about Anderson before listening to this book, but I found her story absorbing and important. A great choice for families with upper elementary or middle school students.
francescadefreitas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a magnificent book to be reading the night that the first African American was elected president of the United States!Aside from the timing, this story of Marion Anderson's life was deftly written, and the the subject is genuinely inspiring.Ms. Anderson's determination and delight in singing opened many doors for her - her local community raised money so she could go to school, instead of working to help support her family. Undeterred by singing schools and vocal coaches that refused to accept black students, she became hugely successful, touring Europe and enchanting audiences across the US. But at each turn, racism provided an ugly backdrop, with segregated concert halls, train station waiting rooms, and the notorious incident of the Daughters of the Revolution refusing to allow her to perform in Washington's most appropriate concert hall.While the book does use the famous concert on the Lincoln steps as a climax, what was fascinating was the picture of a quiet, gentle person drawn into the struggle for equal rights because she had no choice, not because she intended to change the world. I felt that she was driven to sing, not to be an activist, and that adds a poignancy to the courage she showed by her presence, and her simple dignity under terrible conditions.I wasn't in the mood to read this, but I found it engrossing, and a timely reminder the freedom and equality I experience must never be taken for granted.Oh, and there is a nice use of photographs and archival documents throughout the book.I'd give this to someone interested in Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt, or interested in civil rights, music, history, or biographies in general.
fullerl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marian Anderson loved to sing even as a little girl. At a young age, it became clear that Marian had a gift - the gift of music. The Voice That Challenged a Nation is a biography of Marian Anderson, an African American woman, who through her career as a professional singer, helped break barriers and bring awarness and understanding to the struggle for Equal Rights. This book is broken into chapters with titles which help readers find the information in which they are most interested. Towards the end there is an awkward piece where the text talks about her death but in the following chapter backs up a bit and talks more about events that happened during Marian's life. This break in the chronology is perhpas the only flaw in a wonderfully written tribute to an amazing woman.
YouthGPL on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Susan says: I had previously read about Marian Anderson in a couple of different books about Eleanor Roosevelt, since she was one of the people who argued so strongly for Marian Anderson to be able to sing in Constitution Hall. I realized as I read this book that this would be a great book for Black History Month reports, since Marian Anderson, in her own way, did just as much for civil rights as Rosa Parks and I'm sure this book isn't read as often because of where it is in the alphabet. Marian Anderson rose from poverty to become one of the world's most renowned singers, in spite of her race. She traveled the world offering concerts, and was especially successful in Europe. What I think Freedman does best is combine her story with information about the world around her, in an accessible manner for young readers. Even though her life is extraordinary in many ways (she scrubs steps for 10 cents as a child and then is the only black person allowed in many ritzy hotels), she is still human and interesting. This is a great book, and I will recommend it.
KbookB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marian Anderson always loved to sing. In school, in church, and at the gatherings where people first started paying to hear her voice. Her family was poor, but thanks to the generosity of her church, music teachers and fellow musicians, and her own determination and hard work, she became a star - singing for royalty in Europe. But in America, she could not sing in the finest concert hall in Washington D.C., Constitution Hall. Despite its name, the hall¿s owners, the Daughters of the Revolution, had decided to bar black performers. What happened next would change the nation.The Voice that Challenged a Nation is a captivating biography. Freedman does justice to the story of an amazing and relatively-unknown subject. Readers will be inspired by Anderson¿s perseverance and humility as she transforms from the daughter of a coal and ice salesman into a renowned and ground-breaking singer.
ertreada on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marion Anderson was and continues to be an inspiration to many who struggle to fight the inequality that still exists in today's society. This interesting and informative biography of this centuries greatest performance singer chronicles a young black girl who came from a poor family in Philadelphia and by her moral conviction and support of her community became a celebrated singer known around the world. And by simply doing what she loved changed a nation for the better and blazed a trail for many minorities. This book is informative and moving it is a privilege to learn about another great civil rights leader.
amclellan0908 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In an unconventional biographical approach, Freedman begins his text much like a frame story, focusing on a great moment of tension in Marian Anderson's career--her free concert given from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial because racism prohibited her from singing in one of the nation's top venues, Constitution Hall. Stepping away from that moment in Anderson's life, Freedman then brings the reader though more conventional details of a biography, introducing us to Anderson's family (her Jewish grandfather, her hardworking father who passed away early in her life after a work injury, and her mother and sisters) and her early education. A great portion of the biography follows Marian Anderson's vocal training, from her rejection based on race to critical reviews of one of her first concerts to her latter success in Europe and the United States. The crux of the text, the concert at the Lincoln Memorial, marked a shift in how Marian Anderson accepted her role as a prominent public figure and used it to help reduce racist attitudes for the following generation (as seen in the story of her nephew at the end of the text). Chapters are titled to reflect a certain aspect of Marian's life, making it all-the-more personal. The bibliography shows how the author used a variety of resources, including articles from a popular women's magazine; however, the author mentioned using Google as a reference, which seemed to be in poor taste. I could see using this text as an example of biography for a genre study in an English I or II classroom; it could also be used in correlation to a study on Civil Rights literature in an American Literature course.
RangerRoss on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book chronicles the life of Marian Anderson, an African American Opera Singer who rose to fame despite the segregation and harsh Jim Crow laws of the early 20th Century America. Russell Freedman tells Marion's story in an easy to read, straightforward style that is accessible to even strugging readers. This book could be used as part of a unit teaching students about the civil rights movement, perhaps together with a music education class.Though I enjoyed reading this book, I gave it a lower star ranking because I don't know that children will find it as compelling as adults do. This seems to me to be one of those books that adults think children should enjoy, but they really don't. Let's face it: few children are interested in or have even been exposed to opera, and it is an art form that requires a bit of maturity and patience to enjoy. I also think that there are other leaders of the civil rights movement whose life could better illustrate the time.
KeithMaddox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent and well-sourced biography of Marian Anderson, centering around the Lincoln Memorial concert given Easter Sunday, 1939, because Constitution Hall would not allow a Black performer. The book contains excellent and interesting photographs and playbills, as well as quotes from a great many figures of the early Twentieth century concerning Anderson. The book provides an interesting view of what life was like, from a Civil Rights perspective and a cultural one, mentioning radio programs and personalities that only people who were there would likely recall. However, the book does not get bogged down into details, focusing instead on Marian Anderson's life, and in particular the significance of the Lincoln Memorial concert. I would recommend this book for a high school student with an interest in music, history, or social justice (or all of the above), though a middle-schooler could probably enjoy it as well, since the book does not require an extensive knowledge of music or history for the story to be followed. I could definitely see this book being used to paint a picture of the Civil Rights situation in the U.S. if a teacher wanted to present a time other than Reconstruction or the 1950's and '60's. The book is rich in historical details and photographs, as has already been mentioned, but also contains Chapter Notes providing sources, a Bibliography, and a suggested Discography.
enbrown504 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a very informative look at the life of the American singer Marion Anderson. I enjoyed the thorough profile of her life and career at home and abroad. It offered valuable perspective into the trials of minority artists and individuals in pre-civil rights America.
scnelson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of one of the reluctant pioneers of the civil rights movement in America. I am embarrassed that this is the first I've heard of Marian Anderson, someone who was there for MLK's famous "I have a dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The only reason he was standing up there, however, was Anderson, who performed a free concert there years before when she wasn't allowed to perform in Washington's Constitution Hall. Through simply performing her art at the highest level, Anderson was able to open doors that were previously blocked to members of her race. This simple lesson would do many students of today a great good in perhaps changing their perception of education and trying to make it in the world as a member of a minority in this country.
rwilliamson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a biography of Marian Anderson one of the most important classical singers of the 20th century. After the DAR refused to allow her to perform in Constitution Hall, because of her skin color, Ms Anderson gave a world famous performance for 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial in April, 1939. Toscanini said she had a voice heard once in a hundred years. This book would be an approachable read for most middle to high school students. This book has many uses teachers can use it to expose students to both classical pieces and spirituals, Discussions could center on Anderson¿s perseverance and non-confrontational manner. Students could compare the conditions for blacks in Europe and the United States. This book could even be used to expose students to Newsreels via YouTube. The author includes chapter notes, a selected discography picture credits, an index, and a selected bibliography.
MattRaygun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Russell Freedman has written an impressively fluid narrative of one of America's most talented singers, Marian Anderson. The book follows her from her childhood as her vocal talents attract the attention of everyone around her, through her career as an award-winning singer and symbol of the Civil Rights Movement.Freedman has collected an impressive amount of first-hand accounts and interviews for the purposes of this book. The book itself was the product of many sources, including: "My Lord What a Morning", Marian Anderson's ghostwritten autobiography, The Marian Anderson Papers at the University of Pennsylvania, and Allan Keiler's "Marian Anderson: A Singer's Journey".The book goes to some lengths to describe Anderson as a figure that attempted to distance herself from the issues of racism and segregation for much of her life. She purposefully focused her attentions solely on her singing career and if barriers (racial and otherwise) were broken as a result, she was seemingly more embarrassed to be a bother to anyone than desiring to be an iconoclast of any kind.There comes a point in her life when she senses the winds are changing and she allows herself to be drawn into the controversy and politics of the Civil Rights Movement. By this time, she was already an accomplished and beloved figure in American music and had much to gain and little to lose...and perhaps this is where the book loses much of its power. Stories of powerful or successful people risking little rarely evoke the kind of emotional resonance that attracts readers to figures like Martin Luther King, Huey Newton, or Che Guevara.The book itself reads more like an expose of segregation and racism in the United States than it does as a memoir of a revolutionary and ground-breaker. Anderson takes almost all of the racism she encounters in stride, choosing to deal with matters of bigotry with stoicism instead of emotion.There is little doubt that Marian Anderson is admirable figure in American history. She was talented, graceful, beautiful, and never treated as well as she deserved to be in the United States until late in her life. She suffered greatly and her contributions to the arts and desegregation are something to be talked about for generations. However, she is a hero for the arts. She is a testament to the power of music to move the human spirit. This book, ultimately, fails to sell her as a hero of the Civil Rights Movement on par with figures such as Shuttlesworth, Parks, and King.The accomplishments in her career are well documented in this book, and it reads more like an artist-review than a political biography. Her accomplishments in the fields of Civil Rights are understated, although amazing. This book has an odd feel to it. Maybe its a biography of a famous singer. Maybe its a biography of a quiet symbol of Civil Rights. Maybe its both, but the author seems to have a difficult time uniting these themes. There is a narrative and flow to Anderson's singing career, but not to her political one. Overall, this book seems to lack the passion that it advertises on its cover, but it remains to be determined whether this is the fault of the author, or the subject.
Kathdavis54 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marian Anderson was an amazing woman. Her life is a great story that would enrich units about civil rights and women's history. She led a full life full of traveling, singing, and eventually historic change. It appears that Russell Freedman put in a lot of time and work in to this account. Freedman also put in some extras for readers. My favorite section was the partial discography. This will give readers a jumping off point if they want to find some of Anderson's music. On the flip side, I found the selected bibliography too short and the index was too crammed.
abbrown1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a fabulous story about the trials and triumphs of Marian Anderson as she climbed to celebrity during the 30s and 40s. I love the way the story portrays her life optimistically. This book did not discuss her disadvantages disproportional to her successes. I enjoyed how the author highlights Anderson's inexperience with racism until she began pursuing singing as a career. This sets the tone of the book to discuss Anderson's accomplishments in a fascinating, resounding way rather than dwell on her struggles causing the reader to miss the message. As a story about an artist, I respected the author's use of photos to help propel Anderson's story. The pictures chosen helped to visualize Anderson at all her stages in life and made concrete many of the ideas presented about her in the text. Also, as a story about a Black female who accomplished so much in her lifetime despite the struggles, I feel as though the author did a great job highlighting her lack of distraction and willingness to focus on what she wanted from her life and career. I think this is a great message for young girls. They can live their dreams, be happy, and content with life while pursuing what they love.
Michelle_Bales on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This picture book biography tells the interesting story of Marian Anderson, an accomplished concert singer who in the 1930's was not allowed by the Daughters of the Revolution to perform in their Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. because she was black. Marian Anderson was serious about her art, worked hard at bettering herself her entire life, and was very dignified. In response to the D.A.R. refusal, she gave a free performance in front of the Lincoln Memorial. This was the first time a black artist performed there. 75,000 people attended, and the performance was broadcast nationwide. Marian Anderson used her fame to open doors for other black artists by eventually refusing to perform in theaters with segregated seating, becoming a voice for the NAACP, and speaking frankly when asked about her actions. This book would be good for 5th -8th graders. It tells the inspirational story of one dedicated artist's powerful influence in the Civil Rights movement. However, I felt this book was pretty "surface-level." It seemed that the quotes from Anderson were very polished, almost as if they were all obtained from press releases or some other public forum. A bit more character development by Freedmen would have been appreciated by this reader.
rosesaurora on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading about her life and what an amazing person she is. However, the writing just didn't capture her real spirit. Even after I finished the book I was not prepared for what I heard when I searched her name on youtube. Even though I became very interested in her as a person and a singer and a woman who broke barriers wherever she went, I simply found the writing style to be very boring. I'm not sure students would find this book particularly interesting either but maybe a few selected readings could introduce topics such as civil rights, singers of that time period, or even a more detailed look at her life and achievements.
agiffin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book follows the journey of Marian Anderson as she slowly grows from a shy, modest singer to a quietly powerful leader in the quest for equal rights for people of color. I personally enjoy learning the stories of the more unheralded figures of history, and such was the case in this book. Marian Anderson began opening doors for African American artists long before the frequently hailed figures such as Martin Luther King Jr became famous for their own impressive works. Her quietly strong personality shone throughout the book as it flowed from the beginning of her life to the end. I appreciated the many programs included, but found the pictures to be a bit lacking in that they were often repetitive. This book would be an excellent tool to utilize during Black History month, again as a way to teach students about important figures of the time who are not as well known.
harriewatson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This biography of Marian Anderson was a pleasuable read. I think it could be a read aloud book for at least 4-6, perhaps lower grades. Grades 4-12 could also read it independently. For high school it would not (should not) be very demanding, but it would serve as a compelling story to help introduce more demanding treatments of the long struggle for equal rights. I am evaulating this book using criteria for documents, journals and diaries with emphasis on this book as a biography. Accuracy is excellent with a bibliography of wide ranging sources, chapter notes for the numerous quotes, in-text attributions of sources such as Mrs. Roosevelt's newspaper column, and an annotated bibliography. There are numerous photgraphs and other timely artifacts all with good documentation and explanations. The photgraphs and handbills help place the events into the contemporary style of the day which should be very helpful to the young reader. Sources for information and anecdotes come from eyewitness accounts, newspaper accounts, biographies, letters, organizational archives, and autobiographies. My only critcism would be that the sting and harshness of the racial prejudice at the time of this story seems too delicate and low-key. Perhaps that is deliberate since this is aimed at a young audience, but this audience is routinely exposed to much violence, so I am a little puzzled. My other wish for this book is that it had a CD of Anderson's music attached. For use in a class, the annotated bibliography does list a few documentaries. For class EDLS 6710, we will examine this book for content and organization. I think I have covered content fairly well in the preceding. I think the organization of the book illustrates the use of a "hook" to capture the attention of the audience. Chapter One Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939 begins with the solution to a crisis caused by the DAR refusal to allow Marian Anderson to perform at the Constitution Hall. This event became a watershed moment in the civil rights movement. Chapter Two begins the chronological biography of the life of Anderson. Each chapter title refers to usually a quote from Anderson or about her which reflects her life in that chapter. There is a subtitle that points to a pivotal moment in that chapter. The subtitles are intriguing enough to pull the reader (at least this reader) along. I think these are all effective devices to keep moving the story.
mrcmyoung on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marian Anderson didn't ask to be front and center in the early civil rights movement, but when her chance came she stepped up to the podium and sang her heart out. I don't know if I would ever have guessed that a singer's extraordinary gift could be as powerful as a preacher's words, but I'm grateful to Freedman's book for teaching me. Her story is as much about the transcendent power of art and music as it is about the history of race relations in our country. She needed to sing, and people wanted to hear.
jmsummer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book gives a great peak into how one persons life can influence, and be influenced, by great change. The author gives us a great look at Marian Andersons life. Rather than do a book just about her life or just about the civil rights movement, he choose to start off at the high point of Ms. Anderson sings at the Lincon Memorial. He then flashes back to the beginning of her life and works his way back up to that point and beyond. I would not choose this book to talk about civil rights or equal rights. This is not the books primary focus. They are rather part of the framework that helps to build up Marian's story. If anything, I would recomend that anyone that uses this book would combine it wiht a full unit on the civil rights movement.
smoore75 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Voice That Challenged A Nation tells the story of African American vocalist Marian Anderson. It is rich with biographical information about the singer, as well as, being full of photographs and Anderson's own words, which give the reader a complete picture of her professional career. It takes the reader through her childhood singing in the church choir to singing for audiences for a quarter, through her studies in America and abroad, to performing for heads of state, kings and queens. It tells of her struggles through segrated America and how she blazed the trail for many artists of color who were up and coming behind her. Through it all, she held her head high and sang. I found her life so fascinating and such an inspiration. Not to mention, the unbelievable example she set for women, in general. Women choosing career at that time was, I'm sure, unheard of. Definitely recommended!
jamiesque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Russell Freedman's 'The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights' recounts the life of the singer and, as the title suggests, highlights her encounters with the color barriers of early to mid twentith century United States. The cover of the book sums up Freedman's biography perfectly. The black and white photograph displays Marian, smallish and slightly askew of center. She is standing before a bevy of microphones on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at her concert in 1939. Two giant columns rise up on etiher side of Marian, drawfing her with their width and hight, yet, she maintains a look of strenght and focus. Looming in the background, in bottom center is the seated statue of Abraham Lincoln. Marian's life's passion, singing and performing, as well as her success, is captured in this moment as she stands in front of the piano before 75,000 fans on the Mall. And while the biography primarily contains information about Marian's life, personal struggles and deep desire to become best singer possible, a secondary focus is the civil rights movement. The cover of the book presents an inextricable relationship between place, time and circumstance, and the life of a talented individual. Her carreer was shaped in part, by the obstacals she had to circumnavigate or, with the help of others, fight against and overcome.
jenunes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Freedman captures the spirit of an engaging life in The Voice That Challenged a Nation. Marian Anderson's tale is another testament of the equality that so many have spent decades striving for. And yet there is a unique twist to her biography for those who enjoy music. A fan of all genres, I was quite taken with her story and eagerly turned each page as she explores the United States and Europe throughout her musical career. An extraordinary life in this well told book, it is something I would recommend for 9-12 American Histroy classrooms, and definitely a copy in the library for those interested in the topic.