Digital Collection: Discovering Marian Anderson

Posted by University of Pennsylvania Library on October 20, 2020

Educators can access more than 2,500 letters, diaries, interviews, and private recordings — all from the collections of the Philadelphia-born singer, Marian Anderson — through the Penn Libraries’ new digital portal.

The University of Pennsylvania Libraries has completed the digitization of more than 2,500 items from the collection of Marian Anderson, one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century. The body of primary sources in the collection — including letters, diaries, journals, interviews, recital programs, and private recordings — spans the Philadelphia-born contralto’s six-decade career as a concert singer and advocate for social justice.

The digitization project was funded in 2018 by a $110,000 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources. The newly digitized materials complement a significant collection of four thousand photographs, which are also publicly accessible.

Marian Anderson (1897–1993) was born and raised in Philadelphia, with close ties to the community. Best known as an interpreter of art songs and spirituals, Anderson performed in diverse venues throughout her career, from schools and community centers to formal concert stages.

A world-renowned recitalist, Anderson was also a high-profile figure in the fight for Civil Rights. After having been denied permission by the Daughters of the American Revolution to perform for an integrated audience in Constitution Hall, Anderson famously performed an open-air concert for 75,000 people on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Additionally, in 1955, she was the first Black singer to perform in a lead role on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.

Read more and access the collection.

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