Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Marian Anderson

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Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

Marian Anderson
b. 1897, Philadelphia; d. 1993, Portland, Oregon

Marian Anderson, an operatic contralto whose career spanned forty years, studied in her native Philadelphia with Giuseppe Boghetti. She was barred from the Philadelphia Music Academy on racial grounds. She debuted with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1925, followed by a number of U.S. bookings. A 1930 performance in London launched her European career, and she toured the continent to much acclaim. The impresario Sol Hurok arranged an appearance at New York Town Hall in 1935, after which she performed across the U.S. as a soloist and sang at the White House in 1936. Refused a booking at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), who stated that their auditorium was "for whites only," Anderson instead gave a concert at the Lincoln Memorial, arranged by Howard University and the NAACP with the help of Eleanor Roosevelt, who had publicly resigned from the DAR in protest at their action. The concert, attended by some 75,000 people and heard by millions on the radio, was a symbolic triumph for African Americans. In 1955, Anderson was cast as Ulrica in Verdi's Un ballo maschera at the Metropolitan Opera, the first African American singer to perform there. She published an autobiography, My Lord, What a Morning, in 1956.

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