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The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rightsby Russell Freedman
Winner of the 2005 Robert F. Sibert Award
A 2005 Newbery Honor Book
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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.) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] beautiful biography....[P]erfectly written....You must own this book." Children's Literature
"This inspiring work once again demonstrates Freedman's talent for showing how a person's life is molded by its historical and cultural context." School Library Journal
"Well-chosen, well-placed archival photographs, clear writing, abundant research seamlessly woven into the text, and careful documentation make an outstanding, handsome biography. Freedman at his best." Kirkus Reviews
"A voice like yours," celebrated conductor Arturo Toscanini told contralto Marian Anderson, "is heard once in a hundred years." This insightful account of the great African American vocalist considers her life and musical career in the context of the history of civil rights in this country. Drawing on Anderson's own writings and other contemporary accounts, Russell Freedman shows readers a singer pursuing her art despite the social constraints that limited the careers of black performers in the 1920s and 1930s. Though not a crusader or a spokesperson by nature, Marian Anderson came to stand for all black artists — and for all Americans of color — when, with the help of such prominent figures as Eleanor Roosevelt, she gave her landmark 1939 performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, which signaled the end of segregation in the arts. Carefully researched, expertly told, and profusely illustrated with contemporary photographs, this Newbery Honor and Sibert Medal-winning book is a moving account of the life of a talented and determined artist who left her mark on musical and social history. Through her story, Newbery Medal-winning author Russell Freedman, one of today's leading authors of nonfiction for young readers, illuminates the social and political climate of the day and an important chapter in American history. Notes, bibliography, discography, index.
About the Author
Russell Freedman grew up in San Francisco and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. The author of over thirty-five nonfiction books on subjects ranging from animal behavior to social history, Mr. Freedman received the Washington Post Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award in 1992. Lincoln: A Photobiography was awarded the 1988 Newbery Medal and Eleanor Roosevelt was a Newbery Honor Book in 1994. Mr. Freedman lives in New York City and travels extensively to gather material for his books.
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