Where African American History Is American History
Feb. 8, 2022

Marian Anderson: The American Contralto Part 1

Marian Anderson: The American Contralto Part 1

What does it take to be the best to do it?  In Part 1 of this Black Is America podcast presentation, we chronicle the story of the great American contralto Marian Anderson. We discuss her early singing experiences in church, the power and emotion...

What does it take to be the best to do it? 

In Part 1 of this Black Is America podcast presentation, we chronicle the story of the great American contralto Marian Anderson. We discuss her early singing experiences in church, the power and emotion of the Negro spiritual, and why what Black America creates is often hard to duplicate.

In this episode, you will hear:

  • About Marian's upbringing
  • Why the church is essential to the African American community
  • The cheat code embedded in the black community
  • About H.T. Burleigh and the art of the Negro spiritual
  • Why did Marian Anderson go to Europe
  • And so much more

Dominic Lawson (00:01):

I am always interested in those stories of people who are denied an opportunity and go on to be absolutely phenomenal in the very arena they were denied. Take Oprah Winfrey for instance. She was fired from her job as an evening news reporter. And that's probably just water under the bridge for the now billionaire media mogul.

Dominic Lawson (00:23):

Or how about Carrie Washington who filmed two television pilots only to be replaced both times, clearly just a tiny blip for the now Emmy award-winning actress. But before those two stories could unfold, there's another one you should know about, this one probably paved the way for the other two to happen in the first place. It's sometime in 1917 and a young black woman is sitting in the lobby of the Philadelphia Music Academy. She wants to enroll. So she is there to do just that. It's been a long road for this young lady, as she comes from very humble beginnings.

Dominic Lawson (01:02):

Her father died from a work accident years earlier, putting the family deep into poverty. This led to her not being able to pay for high school or get her musical training. But thanks to her church who saw her talent early on, she now has the money to go to school and get her training.

Dominic Lawson (01:19):

Believe me, when I tell you she has a very beautiful voice. The Philadelphia Music Academy has never enrolled a person of color before. So this is a big undertaking. As she waits in the lobby, countless other young people who don't look like her are being seen and being helped with enrollment, even if they came in after her.

Dominic Lawson (01:40):

Finally, once everyone clears out, someone at the admission desk inquires, "What do you want?" "I wish to enroll, so I'm here to get information," the young lady replies. The admission counselor looks at her and says, "We don't take colored." The young woman gets up, gathers her things and walks away.

Dominic Lawson (01:58):

As she walked away, I imagine that admission counselor thought that would be the last she heard of her. Probably thought no one would hear from her at all. However, that slow walk out of that building for the young lady was the beginning steps of one of the greatest of American stories, a story that would lead this young lady to become not only one of the greatest contralto voices in music, but also a civil rights icon.

Dominic Lawson (02:25):

That young lady's name was Marian Anderson, who was deemed the voice of the century. (singing) We come from innovators, heroes, and royalty. We are our ancestors greatest hope. We face many challenges, but we mold that adversity into our greatest strength. We are the glue that holds the nation together and allows it to flourish.

Dominic Lawson (03:26):

Welcome to Black Is America. The podcast that highlights little known African American figures and stories that make our history come to life. I'm your host, Dominic Lawson. Episode two, Marian Anderson, the American contralto, part one.

Dominic Lawson (03:52):

The first time I learned about Marian Anderson was in the third grade. My mom got me this book with these amazing black people in it. Each page had a different person on it. Now there was the usual cast of characters that they roll out for Black History Month, right?

Dominic Lawson (04:07):

MLK, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman. But there were a few that were new to me that I wasn't familiar with. There was Nat love, a cowboy from the old American west. Then there was Jesse Owens, the Olympic athlete who showed the Germans who was the superior one in the 1936 Olympics. And then there was Marian Anderson. I'm not going to lie, my first thought was, a black opera singer?

Dominic Lawson (04:33):

But as I read her page, I thought it was really cool that she traveled worldwide, singing in front of large crowds that didn't look like her. I remember thinking, wow, she must really know how to sing for her to be out here like that. It was too bad that I couldn't hear what she sounded like. It's not like I could have just Googled her on my phone and pulled up an audio clip like I did just now.

Dominic Lawson (05:03):

That's because it was 1993. And even if the tech was around at the time, we couldn't afford that. I mean, I lived in the projects, but it wasn't until I got older that I understood the impact she had on the culture, this country and the craft of classical music. So that was how I came to find out about Marian Anderson, but for a good friend of mine, she learned about Marian Anderson in a different way.

Charlie Edmonds (05:31):
I believe I was in fourth or fifth grade when I first heard about Marian Anderson and it was during Black

History Month at my elementary school.

Dominic Lawson (05:40):
This is Charlie Edmonds, associate instructor and PhD student at Indiana university. And as a kid, she got a perfect introduction to the American icon.

Charlie Edmonds (05:51):

I had heard her name before at home, but I don't think I had heard any recordings of her or really seen pictures of her. And I remember there was a singer in my hometown. Her name I believe is Laurice Lanier. And she would talk about being inspired by Marian Anderson. And so that's how I heard her name, but it wasn't until I was maybe in a black history program or something where the teacher played a recording of Marian Anderson.

Charlie Edmonds (06:16):
She told us that she performed at Carnegie Hall in the 1920s. And I was very impressed by that because we know what the 1920s looked like. And so that was the first time that I was really exposed.

Dominic Lawson (06:34):

And it seemed like a whole new world was about to open up for Charlie.

Charlie Edmonds (06:37):

As a child, it opened up a whole other jar of possibilities for me. I didn't know that black people were out here doing classical music. I didn't know that we were out here performing at Carnegie Hall. When I had heard Carnegie Hall, I thought white, I didn't think black. I didn't think that was something that we can do.

Charlie Edmonds (06:55):

And lo and behold, it had already been done. It allowed me to dream bigger. And at that time I wasn't in music yet. So I didn't really know that's what I would be end up doing. But once I started music learning, I definitely drew on that experience to remember that this is possible and this is something we can do.

Dominic Lawson (07:17):

Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 27th, 1897. She was born to John Anderson and Annie Rucker, but Marian's aunt Mary, John's sister, would be pretty influential in Marian's life when it came to her pursuing music. The Andersons were devout Christians and members of the Union Baptist Church in south Philly.

Dominic Lawson (07:41):

And while the whole family was active in the church, it was aunt Mary who was active in the choir at Union Baptist. She convinced a then six year old Marian to join the choir. And here, thanks to the Penn Libraries and their YouTube channel is Marian Anderson talking about her early experience in the youth choir.

Dominic Lawson (08:00):
Quick disclaimer, these recordings are a bit old. So quality is not the best. If there's anything that is unclear, go to blackisamericapodcast.com for the full transcript. Here is Marian Anderson.

Marian Anderson (08:14):

I was taken along to church with my father practically every Sunday, and this began about the age of six when I was enlisted or enrolled as a member of the junior choir. So, that little choir had in it probably not less than 30 youngsters.

Dominic Lawson (08:34):
And it was early on that Marian's talent would start to show not just in her singing, but also in her process.

Marian Anderson (08:42):

The group was singing so well that we sang for the big Sunday school, which convened in the afternoon. And along about the age of 10 or 11, I was given a piece of music. And I would say about that time, one was able to buy ear and with one finger, work out certain melodies, but I was given a piece of music and told to take it home and look over it. And I was to sing the lower part and the neighbor girl was to sing the upper part. That was a hymn from the Sunday school music book or hymnal. And it was called Dear To The heart Of The Shepherd. Oh, that's long ago,

Dominic Lawson (09:29):

Marion had talent. This much was clear. Well, like all great talents, no matter the craft, you need a teacher, a mentor to push that talent to the next level. So Marian recounts her early days of musical training.

Marian Anderson (09:45):

Now at this period, one simply sang without knowing how you did it. And one sang that way for a long time. One sang that way until one had her first teacher. And so it was just when I went to Mrs. Patterson, I would say before I went to Mrs. Patterson, when my aunt would teach me something, she would sometimes sing it for me and I would sing it after her, but it had nothing to do with voice placement as far as that goes.

Marian Anderson (10:15):

Now then when I went to Mrs. Patterson, I was in school and it was she who told me, who asked me how I produced a note. And I didn't know, I simply opened my mouth and there it was. If she would touch the piano, if it happened to be a high note, one would sing it. If it was a low note, one would sing that because I believe really that on the choir where we went, when I was 15 years old, the senior choir, when one had the opportunity to sing soprano, alto, tenor or base will be lower voices of an octave higher, when one had an opportunity to do that, the voice being natural and one having no inhibition, if the tones were there to do, one did them without trouble, you see.

Marian Anderson (11:03):

And not that one's taking any credit for anything, but one did not have the trouble then. And so when I went to Mrs. Patterson, and she said to me one day about the top note to do it, I wasn't thinking where it was going to go. And she said that I should think about it, and that she wanted me to throw it into the corner of the ceiling, just where the two walls met.

Marian Anderson (11:24):

There's just one little point there, that meant, although she did not use the word to focus. And so I started out doing notes and tried always to push them there. In the beginning, I did not have, I would say 100% success in doing it, but there were some places where it came much easier to do it than others, but on the whole, it was not something which gave one a great deal of trouble.

Marian Anderson (12:00):

Only that I became aware for the first time that there were two ways of doing it. One was absolutely natural and one was one that I had to think about. Whether it was good to have it at that period or not, I did not stop to think, but I know if you're going to do anything, you have to know how you're going to do it and why you're doing it that way.

Marian Anderson (12:29):

And so we worked with Mrs. Patterson on that basis that we would do what we were doing with a knowledge of how we were doing it. And Mrs. Patterson gave me my first Schubert. I believe I had from her my first Schubert song.

Dominic Lawson (12:46):

But even though she had a teacher who could give her a process, Marian was still primarily self-taught. Let's go back to Charlie because she provides a unique perspective on Marian's talent, while maybe she wasn't classically trained, her talent was still undeniable.

Charlie Edmonds (13:03):

She was rejected from the school and she was mostly self-taught. And that resonated with me because I didn't have my first private lesson in music or on my instrument until I was in college as a music major. That's really not common, especially amongst children who have resources usually.

Charlie Edmonds (13:20):

They usually, if they know they want to be a musician professionally, they're going to start private lessons early. I watched other students in my youth orchestra in my community have private lessons, but the students at my school particularly didn't have private lessons and I didn't have private lessons.

Charlie Edmonds (13:35):

So it was me and my band director sometimes after school or me just using whatever I could learn on my own to teach myself. And that's exactly what Marian Anderson did until she was able to get voice lessons. And even after those voice lessons, she was still rejected from some music schools.

Charlie Edmonds (13:51):

And it reminded me that the things that we have in us as black people, it's really amazing because of our traditions that we get to experience growing up. The musical experiences we already have, and that we already come to school with, even though they're not quite valued, they make us who we are and they make us good musicians.

Charlie Edmonds (14:07):

And I got to draw on that as I got older and as I had to work harder to catch up, I realized that I really wasn't that far behind because I had valuable musical experiences. I just didn't have the structure to label it or to use it in the best way.

Dominic Lawson (14:21):

But Charlie says that even though Marian did not have those resources, the musical experiences that she had in church, be it not formal, still did not have her too far behind from those who did have the resources.

Charlie Edmonds (14:35):

From what I understand about her church upbringing is that was her first singing exposure, that was her first singing experience. And what we know about church and about the rhythms we experience in church, it is just, it's in us. It's already ingrained in us. And trying to write that out in music is actually quite difficult and trying to teach what that is in music is quite difficult if you've not grown up in that tradition.

Charlie Edmonds (14:57):

And we get the advantage of if you've grown up in the church of already having exposure to that and the rises and falls of the voice and all the inflections that we use when we sing in church and all of the runs and riffs that just naturally to us. (singing)

Charlie Edmonds (15:26):

It's in us and it's an advantage, and I think that really helped me. And what really made the transition for me, because I was not a singer, I mean, I did sing in church, not a great singer, and so I played clarinet, but my band director wrote out, I think the first thing he wrote out for me was Order My Steps.

Charlie Edmonds (15:42):

And it had all sorts of rhythms on paper that I had never seen, but I had sung before and I was like, oh, that's how you play that rhythm. That's how you read this in notation. I didn't know that. And it made me realize that we are already doing really complex things in church that would be regarded as very difficult in the classical world. And I just, I love that cheat code that we get in the church tradition.

Dominic Lawson (16:05):
Marian had many supporters, but maybe none more significant than her father. Here's Marian again, talking about a big duet performance she prepared for.

Marian Anderson (16:17):

And then the other girl whose name was Viola Johnson came and we were rehearsing it together. And then the day arrived when we were to sing it in church. And this is the first recollection of my understanding of my father's pride.

Dominic Lawson (16:40): He was also her protector.

Marian Anderson (16:42):

On the way home, my father stopped at my grandmother's house, which we had to pass if we took the direct route from the house, from the church to our house and we stopped at my grandmother's house and he talked there for a while and I played around a bit. And by the time we arrived at our little house in Colorado Street, the director of the choir had already been there and left.

Marian Anderson (17:02):

And I remember that my mother told my father that Mr. Robinson had been there and he wanted to be sure that Viola and I would be able to be in church, I think earlier the next Sunday, because there were going to be visited and he wanted that we should sing for them. I only remember that my father said in reply to that, "I'm not going to have them singing my child to death."

Dominic Lawson (17:30):

Her father was important to her as a supporter and the family, as a financial provider. And early on in Marian's life, the course of it would shift drastically. John Anderson worked at Reading Terminal in downtown Philadelphia, where he sold ice and coal and one day, while at work, the day before Christmas, he suffered a very severe head injury.

Dominic Lawson (17:56):

And he would eventually succumb to those injuries and pass away. This would plunge the family deep into poverty. Marian's mother, Annie would have to make up for the financial loss by working more and Marian would have to stop going to school to help care for her younger siblings.

Dominic Lawson (18:14):

She too would have to perform small jobs to support her family. Marian is 12 at this time and had her sites on getting more formal training. Remember she did receive training at the church and from Ms. Patterson, but she needed much more. But for now that would have to be placed on hold.

Dominic Lawson (18:37):

Often, this would be the end of the story. This would be where a person with immense talent would be derailed, never to see that talent fully blossom into what it could be. But the congregants at Union Baptist would not let that happen. Throughout history, the role of the black church has been immense. Outside of a place of worship, it has been a place for social gatherings, community organizing, and even a place of refuge when things were particularly tough for the African American community.

Terri Stephens (19:11):

Well, one thing to even think about with the black church before it was officially the black church, you had your slaves that would gather and they would get together and sing songs and interpret the scripture as best as they could.

Dominic Lawson (19:25):

This is my really good friend, educator and historian Terri Stephens. You're going to hear from her over the course of this season. She explains just how important the church was during Marian Anderson's youth and still is today.

Terri Stephens (19:39):

When they did that, that was a safe place for them. And those songs that they sang had different messages compared to the white people at that time. So over time, as blacks started opening and controlling their own churches and building their own buildings, as you stated earlier, it became the center of the community.

Terri Stephens (20:02):

It was not just for religious purposes. Of course, that's the first thing you're going to think of with the church, but it was for social purposes, they would go for weekly meetings, say, hey, how are you doing? Just to gather that community fellowship, the churches were big on economics.

Terri Stephens (20:19):

Oftentimes they would help businesses start. They would support each other. And then you had your cultural aspect of the church because with the culture, of course, you had your African traditions, you had the music, you had the language, all of that was key to the black community.

Terri Stephens (20:37):

That wasn't key then, but it's still key now. Even though you may not have a lot of people into organized religion, the black church is still a center of the community. And one thing I even look at, is the education because even for myself, that was one of the first places where I had a public speaking role, even in the Sunday schools, children were learning to read, to interact with other kids. So the church in itself is so much more than just a religious building. It's the center of the community.

Dominic Lawson (21:16):
When Terri mentioned the education piece, this was surprising to me or at the very least, I had never thought of it. So I wanted to ask her more about that specifically. Here again, is Terri.

Terri Stephens (21:28):

A lot of your middle class people were educators at that time. So you had a lot of your teachers teaching Sunday school, a lot of your ministers during that particular time were also teachers or principals of different schools. Your deacons were principals or teachers at that time.

Terri Stephens (21:46):

So they just brought in those things that they knew from their profession and used it in the church to help solidify what the kids were getting at school. I know from my experience, my pastor, my original pastor, Reverend Subs was a history teacher at the Hamilton High School here in the city. His wife was an economics teacher. Mr. Neely was a principal at ... all of those people here in the city that were educators and the roles that they had in the church.

Terri Stephens (22:18):

Dr. King, even his family, had a lot of educators in it. It's almost like education and the black church go hand in hand. One of my professors at Wash U, Ronald B. Pagnet, pastor of one of the larger churches in St. Louis, but he was also a prolific professor at Wash U.

Terri Stephens (22:40):

So we learned how to write, speak, learned how to make sure even the punctuation, it was those little things that a lot of people take for granted that people from the education field brought into the church, especially during vacation Bible school, when you would have a lot of the community to come in, it just still built on community.

Dominic Lawson (23:05):

Union Baptist saw Marian's talent at a very young age, and they were very much aware of what had befallen the young woman and her family. And so little by little, they raised the money for her, not only to go to high school, but to also get the musical training she so desperately wanted.

Dominic Lawson (23:23):

It's just another example of how the black church has always been a place that protected black people and supported them in their many endeavors. Amen to that. So this leads us to the brief story I mentioned at the top of the show. Marian has hopes of training at the Philadelphia Music Academy, but we know how that story ends so there's no need to rehash it. You know what? Hey, stop the music for a second.

Dominic Lawson (23:52):

So in creating this episode, I thought real hard about being petty and reference that admissions counselor from the top of the show and her, we don't take colored comments every time I bring up Marian doing something amazing because I mean, you know that's, what's about to happen, right?

Dominic Lawson (24:09):

But I came across an article in the New York Times during my research in which Marian was asked about being treated unfairly, but she always took the high road. And when I think about our ancestors, that's what a lot of them did. They took the high road and honestly just like them, I think that speaks to her grace and conviction that she didn't need to do stuff like that.

Dominic Lawson (24:33):

So I guess in honor of auntie Marian, I will stick to that tradition. I guess it's a lot like Jackie Robinson when he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, he had to endue racial slurs just to play a game. And while frustrated, he never let it affect the goal.

Dominic Lawson (24:49):

Also, fun fact, Marian Anderson was a big time Brooklyn Dodgers fan, probably in due large part to Jackie, but I'm getting off task here. Let's get back to auntie Marian's story. So she wasn't able to go to the school of her choice, right? But she was still in need of a music to teacher, one that would teach her the art and the skill of classical music.

Dominic Lawson (25:11):

And thanks to her high school principal, Marian would find that teacher. Marian attended south Philadelphia High School, which had many notable alumni walk up and down its halls, including my guy, Ernest Evans. My bad. You may know him by a different name. (singing) My guy, Ernest or Chubby Checker also attended the prestigious high school. Anyways, the principal, when Marian attended, Dr. Lucy Wilson had an assembly one day and well, I'll let Marian take it from here.

Marian Anderson (25:54):

When I left and went to South Philadelphia High School, almost immediately, the principal who was Dr. Lucy Wilson became interested and she used to have for assembly, lectures or someone to play the piano or sing. And among the people whom she had was a young woman by the name of Sarah Stein.

Marian Anderson (26:18):

And the day that Sarah Stein was there, Dr. Wilson had me sing in the assembly. I don't remember what it was that I sang at all, but after the assembly was over, Dr. Wilson told me that she wanted to see me in the office. And I went to her office and Dr. Wilson told me that her friend, Ms. Stein wanted me to meet her teacher and the person whom Sarah Stein wanted me to sing for was Mr. Boghetti.

Dominic Lawson (26:48):

Giuseppe Boghetti was a voice teacher and he would go on to have many voice opera singers as pupils. But when Sarah Stein first introduces Marian, he is not exactly thrilled to meet her. Here's Marion again.

Marian Anderson (27:01):

I went to sing for Mr. Boghetti and before we sang for him, he immediately said that he didn't have time, he didn't have time to take on any pupils at all. He was much too busy, but he was giving me a half an hour of his precious time just because his star pupil had asked him to do so, and so, and so, and so, and so and so, and so. Dr. Wilson from outward appearance was not very happy about this introduction.

Dominic Lawson (27:27):
But as soon as Marian started to sing, his tone changed quickly.

Marian Anderson (27:32):
And so the song which we sang for Mr. Boghetti was Deep River. (singing)

Dominic Lawson (28:00):

As Marian is singing, tears are streaming down his face. He is visibly moved by her rendition of Deep River, a Negro spiritual that speaks to going to a promised land. And when you listen to Marian's rendition of it, you cannot help but to be moved. As a black woman, that song has a meaning that I don't think anyone else can unearth the way she did. Terri provides some unique commentary on what Mr. Boghetti probably feels as Marian is singing.

Terri Stephens (28:32):

The Negro spirituals, there is so much emotion in them and it does my heart good when I hear high schools here in the area, still sing those. Cordova High School has a phenomenal choir and they sang this song acapella, of course. All of the spirituals were acapella, but the feeling in those, it tells a story and it's filled with emotion.

Terri Stephens (29:05):

The Fisk Jubilee singers were also known for singing those spirituals. And those are the things that if you think about it, they kept our people going, especially during some of the toughest times. And by saying that it is easy now, but you think about the post civil war era, the 1920s with the depression, the 1930s, that time leading up to world war II and all of those things, those spirituals with those messages in them just gave our people so much strength. And those traditions that have been passed on through those songs are still valid because if you sit and listen, those messages are still very important to us these days.

Dominic Lawson (29:56):
And whatever that performance on earth, it definitely moved Mr. Boghetti because he switched that, I

don't have time for you energy real quick. Here is Marian again.

Marian Anderson (30:07):
After it was finished, he said, "I will make room for you right away. And I will only need you two years, after that you can go anywhere and sing for anybody that you want."

Dominic Lawson (30:18):

Those two years turned into 22 as he would be her teacher and coach until his death in 1941. Let's fast forward a bit to here, in 1923. Up until this point, Marian has been touring around the country. She is really making a name for herself. She is going on long tours and auntie Marian is out here getting money.

Dominic Lawson (30:51):

I'll explain a little more about this in part two. One day, Marian gets a letter from the Victor Talking Machine Company, a recording and phonograph company. They were known for recording some of the top musical acts of the day, but they needed to diversify.

Dominic Lawson (31:08):

They wanted to have phonographs in as many homes as possible, and that included homes in black America. Well, if that ain't just more proof that the black dollar is critical to the American economy, simply put, no matter if it's 2022 or Jim Crow, 1923, the United States need our coins.

Dominic Lawson (31:28):

Anyways, the company didn't have a person of color that they could promote to sell phonographs to black homes. And that is where auntie Marian comes in. So on December 10th, 1923, she heads to Camden, New Jersey to the company headquarters to sing and record two Negro spirituals. The first is Deep River, which she sang for her vocal coach, Mr. Boghetti, and the other was My Way's Cloudy. (singing)

Dominic Lawson (32:09):

In this recording, Marian brings a true American art form to the masses, the Negro spiritual. She's also highlighting the arranger of these two beautiful songs. Harry Thacker Burleigh or HT, is an African American composer who played a significant role in the art form, composing over 200 songs in the genre and bringing our music, our culture to the concert stages of America.

Dominic Lawson (32:37):

He also becomes a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. You know, it as ASCAP, you can make the argument that there is no Diddy, no Pharrell or Timbaland without my guy, HT Burleigh. At this point, Marian Anderson is a black woman out here living the American dream in the face of her dad dying when she was young, being denied opportunities, and even while she is touring, she is traveling on trains that are dirty with no bathrooms because of the color of her skin. But even through all that Marian Anderson is thriving. But I was curious, how is she pulled this off? So I asked Charlie for some commentary.

Charlie Edmonds (33:22):

I think it comes from all of the things that we've had to overcome, all of the nos that we've experienced as people, and then we see people turn them into yeses. I have a feeling that somewhere along the way, Marian Anderson saw somebody else overcome something. And we are all learned that this is just what we do as people, even though we run into all sorts of things, systemically and overtly, that we're going to make our way through. We're going to do it.

Charlie Edmonds (33:51):

It may not look initially like everybody else's or like the standard, but we're going to make it the standard because we just kind of have that hustle in us. That's my view of it. And those cheat codes, it's just in us. We've seen too many of our ancestors overcome too many things to not think that we can do it too, even if it's not the standard right away, even if it's not technically correct right away, it will be.

Dominic Lawson (34:24):

But it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows for Marian. And I'm not even talking about the racism, well, sort of. Remember, as talented as Marian is, she didn't receive the formal training that she needed to get to the next level. I mean, Mr. Boghetti got her quite aways, but even he was limited in what he could show her.

Dominic Lawson (34:46):

And this included singing songs in different languages, we're talking German, Italian and more. And the lack of formal training was put on display in the biggest city of them all. New York city's town hall would be her true coming out party. It would make sense, right? You know the saying, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, but it did not go as planned.

Dominic Lawson (35:11):

First of all, she was told that the concert hall was packed with people. It was not. And the songs that she sang were not sung with correct pronunciation. And lastly, the critics slander her. One said that she said should stop performing and stick to studying. And this would put Marian in a deep funk. And she would actually shy away from music for a while.

Dominic Lawson (35:35):

And sometimes you have to do that in life when you take an L, right? You have to step away for a while and regroup. And that is what auntie Marian does. Not getting that formal training was always the one thing holding her back throughout her career. She knew her talent was only going to take her so far, but I bet that feeling she felt that night in New York, she was going to make sure that she never felt that feeling ever again.

Dominic Lawson (36:05):
And so in 1927, Marian would pack her bags and set sail for Europe. Next time on the Black Is America podcast, we learned about Marian's journey through Europe.

Marian Anderson (36:31):
So we went to this person who had their concert agency and he arranged the concert for us in Paris.

Dominic Lawson (36:36):
And when she comes back to the States, she would sing in front of one of the largest crowds in her career.

Speaker 5 (36:42):
The United States Park Police officially estimate the attendance at over 75000.

Dominic Lawson (36:47):

All that, and more next time on the Black Is America podcast. The Black Is America podcast, a presentation of Al's education was created and it is written, researched, and produced by me, Dominic Lawson, executive producer, Kendall Lawson. Cover art was created by Alexandria Eddings of Art Life Connections. Special thanks to Charlie Edmonds, associate instructor and Ph.D. student at Indiana University, Terri Stephens, educator and historian, Marian Anderson via the Penn Libraries who posted her interviews on their YouTube page and the New York Times whose articles were pivotal to the research of this episode.

Dominic Lawson (37:30):

Be sure to like review and subscribe to the Black Is America podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. For a full transcript of this episode and other resources go to www.blackisamericapodcast.com. There, you can read our blog, leave us a review, or you can leave a voicemail message where you can ask a question or let us know what you think about the show.

Dominic Lawson (37:57):

And we may play that on an upcoming episode. You can also hit the donation button if you like what you heard, which helps us create more educational content like this. Finally, thank you so much for listening to the Black Is America podcast, where our history comes to life. Until next time.


Terri Stephens

Educator/Historian/Sister/Aunt/Doll Collector/Dog Mom

Terri Stephens is a native Memphian that enjoys learning and teaching about history. A product of Memphis City Schools, now Memphis-Shelby County Schools, Terri graduated from Westwood High School. She then went on to attend Washington University, St. Louis where she obtained a B.A. degree in African and Afro-American studies (1994). Terri continued her academic pursuits at the University of Memphis. During this time, she studied education. Terri received an M.A. in Teaching, as well as licensure to teach grades 1-8. In the fall of 1996, Terri began her teaching career. This did not stop her love of history, as a matter of fact, she taught 6th grade World Civilizations for 22 years. During this time, Terri went to Chicago to participate in a summer program with the HistoryMakers with teaches from across the country. She has also served on numerous state committees with a focus on teaching social studies/ history.

Terri currently serves as Social Studies Instructional coach for the Whitehaven Empowerment Zone of Memphis-Shelby County Schools. In this role, she coaches other classroom teachers to become stronger in their pedagogy.

On a more personal note, Terri’s love of history began at home with her parents. Her family would often sit together to watch historical documentaries and movies, i.e. Eyes on the Prize, Roots, Shaka Zulu. She still continues this practice with her nieces and nephew. Also, any family trip turns into a history lesson according to her sisters.

Charlie EdmondsProfile Photo

Charlie Edmonds

Educator/Musician/PhD Student

Charlie Edmonds is a music educator and musician who advocates for the intentional and equitable teaching of Black students and the comprehensive training of educators. Currently in her second year of PhD work in Music Education at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, her research focuses are equitable access in urban school band programs, culturally responsive teaching, and increased university support and practicum experiences for urban schools and preservice teachers. In 2022, Charlie's beginning band educational tool, Pocket, will launch as a database of beginning instrumental music exercises and methods based on Black music genres.