cover image 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

Russell Freedman, . . Clarion, $18 (114pp) ISBN 978-0-618-15976-5

Newbery medalist Freedman (Lincoln: A Photobiography ) succinctly traces the career of renowned contralto Marian Anderson (1897–1993) from her Philadelphia childhood, when she first revealed her extraordinary voice in church choirs. Throughout, the author describes the racial discrimination Anderson frequently encountered as an African-American artist, as well as her role in the struggle for civil rights, a role defined by her dignified yet determined response to racism. The gifted singer felt the sting of discrimination as a teen, when she tried to apply to a music conservatory and was told, "We don't take colored." Later, as she and her accompanist toured America, they were barred from hotels and restaurants and relegated to the Jim Crow cars of trains. Freedman provides thrilling accounts of Anderson's success and soaring reputation in Europe, where she performed for royalty, often singing in the native language of her audiences and eliciting the highest praise from maestro Arturo Toscanini, who told Anderson hers was a voice "heard once in a hundred years." Perhaps most poignant is Freedman's re-creation of Anderson's 1939 performance before 75,000 fans at the Lincoln Memorial, a concert precipitated by the DAR's refusal to allow a black singer to appear at its Constitutional Hall and accomplished largely through the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt. Copious quotes from Anderson's autobiography, papers and interviews allow her resonant voice—and personal grace—to animate these pages. Also included are abundant photos, newspaper clippings and reproductions of concert programs. An engrossing biography. Ages 9-12. (Mar.)