Marian Anderson (1897-1993) (2021Mar11)

Thursday, March 11, 2021                                                1:37 AM

Marian Anderson (1897-1993)   (2021Mar11)

Marian Anderson (Feb. 27, 1897 – Apr. 8, 1993) was an American contralto. Throughout the forty years of her performing career (1925 – 1965), Marian Anderson was a pivotal figure in the United States and Europe—and her impact on all our lives, remains, and continues..

In 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to allow Anderson to sing in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Anderson, undeterred, performed an outdoor concert, Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the Lincoln Memorial steps.

On January 7, 1955, Anderson became the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. In addition, she worked as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United States Department of State, giving concerts all over the world. She participated in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, singing at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Marian Anderson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, the Congressional Gold Medal in 1977, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the National Medal of Arts in 1986, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.


To acknowledge that Ms. Anderson is a great lady is no hardship—any hardship was on the side of those who discounted her humanity, her artistry, and her character, simply to insist on an obsolete simplemindedness-which has somehow become their ‘pride’. These kinds of misunderstandings should be ironed out in Kindergarten, not perpetuated as some ‘noble’ tradition. Nevertheless.

I begin with the admirable Ms. Anderson’s CV (lifted ad-hominem from Wiki—sorry ‘bout that!) because my story intersects, in a meaningless, but personally significant way, with hers. Not a big thing, but it sticks in my head.

Okay, my Gramma Duffy was a proud member of the DAR, a stiff-necked New Englander, who could trace us back (on my mother’s side), through Camden whalers, privateers, (and even Pirates), all the way to Elder Brewster. There was a bunch of Mayflower whatever-their-exclusive-club-was-called, also, that perhaps some DAR members could only wish for.

But Gramma said she couldn’t stand them, too stuffy. I suspect she had no great savour for the DAR Teas, either. Personally (and it may just be my upbringing) but it all sounds like a bunch of elitist BS, like many clubs, and I follow Groucho’s advice on membership.

In April 1939, while Fascists overseas were advocating Final Solutions for Non-Aryans, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt announced her resignation from the Daughters of the American Revolution, in protest of those ladies’ refusal to admit Marian Anderson to perform in their Hall. Eleanor Roosevelt and FDR both arranged for the alternate location, the famed steps of the Lincoln Memorial—which has ever since been a gathering place for important Civil Rights protests.

This was in the papers, and Gramma followed First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s example (as did many others) resigning forever from the DAR. Now, this was 1939, okay. Membership really did have privileges, then—and the farther you go back in history, the greater the privileges. It was no idle whim to quit the DAR. It was a solemn thing. My mother followed her example, and my sister.

Today, it struck me that I, a white man, have generational tales in my bloodline—about the evils of racism. I wish we had a jacket or something—my family has been opposing racism and exclusion for generations. It is as much a tradition with us Yankees, as it is for you simple, deep-down-south-folk.

And that is why Racism is having its ass kicked—you Proud Boy Scouts think you’ll never quit? Guess what?

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