Hi there. This week I have the story of a black woman, Marian Anderson, who made history with a gift that God bestowed upon her. From her biography, “My Lord, What A Morning,” comes the following: “When she stood before the famous music teacher Giuseppe Borghetti, the church recitals, the amateur cantatas and oratories, the timid tours through the South and the tutoring of good friends were all behind her. Auditioning for a professional career, she was a stately young woman with a serene face. Her outward calm and dusky complexion seemed almost a part of the gathering twilight as started singing “Deep river, my home is over Jordan. Deep river ... Lord, I want to cross over into camp ground.”

When Marian Anderson finished her audition, Mr. Borghetti sat motionless, tears streaming down his cheeks. Miss Anderson’s church had raised money for her first year’s fees, and Mr. Borghetti was so impressed by her voice that he taught her an additional year without cost.

After several years of private study, Miss Anderson resumed her tours of Southern colleges and in 1925 she felt she was ready for a Town Hall concert. The concert was a failure and the young novice singer was on the brink of despair. However, in 1926 she sang at a Spingarn Award dinner for Roland Hayes and took a renewed interest in her own career. In 1927 Miss Anderson entered a competition with 300 other young singers and won top prize, which consisted of a contract for concert tours.

This led to an appearance with the famed New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Finding her concert opportunities limited in Jim Crow America, Marian Anderson went to Europe in 1929 and made her continental debut in Germany. After returning, she continued her training and touring. From 1933 to 1935 she spent two more years in Europe with the aid of fellowships and sang for the crown heads of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and England.

Miss Anderson also came under the management of the impresario, Sol Hurok, and won the praise of Arturo Toscanini, who declared that hers was a voice “heard only once in a hundred years!” Within three years after her return, Marian Anderson was one of America’s leading contraltos. Her recordings were a staple of the Columbia Recording Co. and her concerts were generally sell-outs. With Franz Rupp, Marian Anderson criss-crossed the Americas and by 1941 she was one of America’s highest-paid concert artists.

Her standing was so high in 1939 that when the Daughters of the American Revolution denied her the use of Constitution Hall, a national scandal was created. Deems Taylor, Walter Damrosch and other musical leaders expressed their disapproval of the DAR; and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the president, resigned from this organization. As though in disapproval of the DAR, 75,000 people gathered before Marian Anderson on the steps of the Washington Memorial as she sang on Easter Sunday morning in 1943.

Marion Anderson was awarded the Spingarn Medal and the $10,000 Bok Award; and many other awards and distinctions came her way. She was the first Negro to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. In 1957 she toured Asia and in India she moved tens of thousands with her music. Without a doubt, Marian Anderson, through her music and her regal behavior, has contributed greatly to the success of many other Negroes on either side of the footlights.

I never tire of telling my brothers and sisters that they are standing on the shoulders of people like Marian Anderson and thousands of others who paved the way so they might enjoy a better way of life today. I have this question for my people this week: “What You Gonna’ Do?”

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