Sound of Freedom

Raymond Arsenault, Author
Raymond Arsenault, Author Bloomsbury Publishing PLC $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59691-578-7
Reviewed on: 03/30/2009
Release date: 03/01/2009
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-60819-189-5
Paperback - 310 pages - 978-1-60819-056-0
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Commemorating the 70th anniversary of African-American contralto Marian Anderson's culture-shifting 1939 Easter Sunday performance at the Lincoln Memorial, the story of this underappreciated Civil Rights milestone resonates even louder in the wake of President Obama's election. Civil rights historian Arsenault (Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice) paints a detailed portrait of America's struggle for racial equality through one of the 20th century's most celebrated singers (of any color). Despite a 40-year career as a world-class entertainer, performing around the globe, Arsenault suffered innumerable racist indignities in her homeland, culminating in the controversial declaration by the Daughters of the American Revolution that barred her from performing in Washington, D.C.'s Constitution Hall. In defiance, Anderson and her entourage arranged for the free, open-air Easter concert, which drew an estimated crowd of 75,000. The peaceful demonstration struck a vital blow for civil rights, and in particular for integration at Constitution Hall, nearly 25 years before Martin Luther King's march on Washington. Arsenault relies heavily on historical manuscripts and newspaper articles, but his vivid understanding of the players keeps the narrative fresh and insightful. Anderson died in 1993, at age 96, but this vivid tribute to her work and times does her memory a great service.
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