Marian Anderson is known as one of the most successful African-American women of the 20th century. She was an American contralto who sang everything from opera to spirituals. She played a vital role in the struggle of African-American artists during the mid-twentieth century.
America was facing the era of racial segregation, and in 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused Anderson from performing in Constitution Hall.
The incident wasn’t well-received and placed her in the international spotlight. Things turned around when she performed in an open-air Lincoln Memorial concert on Easter Sunday the same year. The concert was critically acclaimed and covered in a documentary film. She was also the first African-American artist to showcase her talent at the Metropolitan Opera.
Anderson was a courageous and talented artist with a passion for music tempered by the will to face discrimination with fortitude. Here are inspiring Marian Anderson quotes that illustrate her insightful thoughts.
Motivational Marian Anderson Quotes
1. “A person has to be busy to be alive.” – Marian Anderson
2. “Sometimes, it’s like a hair across your cheek. You can’t see it, you can’t feel it with your fingers, but you keep brushing at it because the feel of it is irritating.” – Marian Anderson, on prejudice and discrimination
3. “To be a first-rate artist, a great deal of time and a great deal of energy would need to be spent in this direction as well as with the voice.” – Marian Anderson
4. “Sometimes you’re overwhelmed when a thing comes, and you do not realize the magnitude of the affair at that moment. When you get away from it, you wonder, did it really happen to you.” – Marian Anderson
5. “I remember one day, delivering the basket of laundry for my mother, and I heard a piano being played and somebody singing…There sitting on a piano stool, I saw a woman who looked no different to me, and she was playing very well. She was not dressed up. She was unconscious that anyone was looking at her. At that moment, I realized, if she could, I could.” – Marian Anderson
6. “We are all here to have a kind of living of our own and to be recognized for what we are.” – Marian Anderson
7. “When you stop having dreams and ideals—well, you might as well stop altogether.” – Marian Anderson
8. “My mother said to me, ‘My child listen, whatever you do in this world, no matter how good it is, you will never be able to please everybody. But what one should strive for is to do the very best humanly possible.’” – Marian Anderson
9. “My father bought our first piano. Oh, you have no idea the joy…I remember taking one finger of his hand to make it go up the scale. His fingers were so large that I could scarcely get them on one key at a time. He may even have tried to hit two notes to make me feel that he couldn’t do it as well as I.” – Marian Anderson
10. “None of us is responsible for the complexion of his skin. This fact of nature offers no clue to the character or quality of the person underneath.” – Marian Anderson
11. “As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might.” – Marian Anderson
12. “No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people. And as long as you keep a person down, some part of him has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise.” – Marian Anderson
13. “There was a certain thrill walking to stand next to the conductor, and as I remember it, the stadium was just jam-packed. And it was naturally one great, great moment.” – Marian Anderson
14. “A master builds something he knows that he does not have to have the finishing tools at the beginning of his job. It was systematic, it was a little more, a little more, a little more each year.” – Marian Anderson
15. “I noticed that some of my people were embarrassed to the very core. There were others who accepted what they had to live through. They were not in a position to do anything at all. It was certainly necessary to do something about it.” – Marian Anderson
16. “Everyone has a gift for something, even if it is the gift of being a good friend.” – Marian Anderson
17. “As well as I know ‘America,’ for a while, one was carried away to the point that words did not come. I, as an individual, was not important on that day. It happened to be the people whom I represented. I think if you have something to offer which can help a situation, then I think you should do it in your own manner.” – Marian Anderson
18. “You cannot be expected to give as good a performance as you would hope if your mind is partly on the fact that you are someplace, but you certainly are not wanted there. And you are trying to sing to a group of people as if your heart is full of love and happiness, and it isn’t completely.” – Marian Anderson
19. “I went into the store, and on the gramophone, they played ‘Deep River.’ My heart began to jump like mad, and I was flustered beyond anything you can imagine.” – Marian Anderson
20. “Those who wrote the music, those who made the pianos which the accompanist played, the accompanist who actually lends support to the performers, to go off without any of these things to stand on your own, even the voice, even the breath, even that emotion that you have, it’s not of your doing. There is no particular thing that you can do alone. The ‘I’ in it is very small after all.” – Marian Anderson
21. “The greatest dream as one grew older was to be able one day to sing on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. And then came the day. When we came to the Metropolitan, there was a man who said immediately, ‘Welcome home.’” – Marian Anderson
22. “I do not have to tell you that I dearly love the Negro spirituals. They are the unburdening of the sorrows of an entire race, which, finding scant happiness on Earth, turns to the future for its joys.” – Marian Anderson
Lincoln Memorial Concert | Voice of Freedom | American Experience | PBS
Marian Anderson stepped up to a microphone placed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. She stared out at a crowd of more than 75,000 people. She had been barred from performing at the Constitutional Hall. Still, thanks to clever advocacy by Walter White of the NAACP and the aid of high-powered allies like Eleanor Roosevelt, the concert was set to make history.
Marian Anderson quotes are as powerful as her voice. Her words inspired many people who fought against American racial segregation in the 20th century. She was a determined artist who fought prejudice with her singing and dignified personality. People still consider her one of the best singers ever!
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“Marian Anderson Sings at Lincoln Memorial: 1939 # 1” by Washington Area Spark is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
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