Cover image for The voice that challenged a nation : Marian Anderson and the struggle for equal rights
The voice that challenged a nation : Marian Anderson and the struggle for equal rights
Freedman, Russell.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Clarion Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
114 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
In the mid-1930s, Marian Anderson was a famed vocalist who had been applauded by European royalty and welcomed at the White House. But, because of her race, she was denied the right to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. This is the story of her resulting involvement in the civil rights movement of the time.
Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939 -- Twenty-five cents a song -- A voice in a thousand four: Marian fever -- Banned by the DAR -- Singing to the nation -- Breaking barriers -- "What I had was singing."
Reading Level:
1180 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 8.2 3.0 78566.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 7.3 7 Quiz: 36215 Guided reading level: Y.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3930.A5 F73 2004 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
ML3930.A5 F73 2004 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
ML3930.A5 F73 2004 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
ML3930.A5 F73 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
ML3930.A5 F73 2004 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography

On Order

Clarence Library1Received on 7/25/05



"A voice like yours," celebrated conductor Arturo Toscanini told contralto Marian Anderson, "is heard once in a hundred years." This insightful account of the great African American vocalist considers her life and musical career in the context of the history of civil rights in this country. Drawing on Anderson's own writings and other contemporary accounts, Russell Freedman shows readers a singer pursuing her art despite the social constraints that limited the careers of black performers in the 1920s and 1930s. Though not a crusader or a spokesperson by nature, Marian Anderson came to stand for all black artists -- and for all Americans of color -- when, with the help of such prominent figures as Eleanor Roosevelt, she gave her landmark 1939 performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, which signaled the end of segregation in the arts.Carefully researched, expertly told, and profusely illustrated with contemporary photographs, this Newbery Honor and Sibert Medal-winning book is a moving account of the life of a talented and determined artist who left her mark on musical and social history. Through her story, Newbery Medal-winning author Russell Freedman, one of today's leading authors of nonfiction for young readers, illuminates the social and political climate of the day and an important chapter in American history. Notes, bibliography, discography, index.

Author Notes

Russell Freedman was born in San Francisco, California on October 11, 1929. He received a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley in 1951. After college, he served in the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps during the Korean War. After his military service, he became a reporter and editor with the Associated Press. In 1956, he took a position at the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson in New York, where he did publicity writing for television. In 1965, he became a full-time writer.

His first book, Teenagers Who Made History, was published in 1961. He went on to publish more than 60 nonfiction titles for young readers including Immigrant Kids, Cowboys of the Old West, Indian Chiefs, Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life, Confucius: The Golden Rule, Because They Marched: The People's Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America, Vietnam: A History of the War, and The Sinking of the Vasa. He received the Newbery Medal for Lincoln: A Photobiography and three Newbery Honors for Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery, The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane, and The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights. He also received the Regina Medal, the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Award, the Orbis Pictus Award, the Sibert Medal, a Sibert Honor, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and the National Humanities Medal. He died on March 16, 2018 at the age of 88.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4-8. In lush operatic style, Pam Munoz Ryan's picture-book biography When Marian Sang (2002), with beautiful illustrations by Brian Selznick, celebrated the triumph of the great African American vocalist in the face of the vicious segregation of her time. Now for middle-grade and junior-high readers comes this handsome, spaciously designed photo-biography. In his signature prose, plain yet eloquent, Freedman tells Anderson's triumphant story, with numerous black-and-white documentary photos and prints that convey her personal struggle, professional artistry, and landmark civil rights role. Everything leads up to her 1939 historic performance at the Lincoln Memorial, where, denied the right to sing at Constitution Hall, she thrilled a crowd of 75,000 and a national radio audience. Freedman reveals that Anderson never invited political confrontation, but with the support of such friends as Eleanor Roosevelt, she had a profound effect on the nation. Documentation is an essential part of her exciting story, with many pages of source notes as well as an enthusiastic, annotated bibliography, and, of course, a discography. Older readers and adults will want this, too. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Newbery medalist Freedman (Lincoln: A Photobiography) succinctly traces the career of renowned contralto Marian Anderson (1897-1993) from her Philadelphia childhood, when she first revealed her extraordinary voice in church choirs. Throughout, the author describes the racial discrimination Anderson frequently encountered as an African-American artist, as well as her role in the struggle for civil rights, a role defined by her dignified yet determined response to racism. The gifted singer felt the sting of discrimination as a teen, when she tried to apply to a music conservatory and was told, "We don't take colored." Later, as she and her accompanist toured America, they were barred from hotels and restaurants and relegated to the Jim Crow cars of trains. Freedman provides thrilling accounts of Anderson's success and soaring reputation in Europe, where she performed for royalty, often singing in the native language of her audiences and eliciting the highest praise from maestro Arturo Toscanini, who told Anderson hers was a voice "heard once in a hundred years." Perhaps most poignant is Freedman's re-creation of Anderson's 1939 performance before 75,000 fans at the Lincoln Memorial, a concert precipitated by the DAR's refusal to allow a black singer to appear at its Constitutional Hall and accomplished largely through the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt. Copious quotes from Anderson's autobiography, papers and interviews allow her resonant voice-and personal grace-to animate these pages. Also included are abundant photos, newspaper clippings and reproductions of concert programs. An engrossing biography. Ages 9-12. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9-In the initial chapter, Freedman movingly and dramatically sets the stage for the performer's historic 1939 Easter concert at the Lincoln Memorial. In less than two pages, he captures the huge crowd's eager anticipation, briefly describes the controversy sparked by the Daughters of the American Revolution's refusal to allow Anderson to appear at Constitution Hall, and mentions the significance of the concert. He leaves readers at the moment when "A profound hush settled over the crowd.- she closed her eyes, lifted her head, clasped her hands before her, and began to sing." The author then switches to a chronological account of Anderson's life from her childhood in Philadelphia through her acclaimed U.S. and European concert tours in the 1920s and 1930s. He then gives a fuller account of the famous outdoor concert, which he refers to as a milestone in both musical and civil rights history. Freedman acknowledges that the singer did not set out to be a political activist or a crusader for civil rights. Numerous archival photographs, thorough chapter notes, a selected bibliography of works for both adult and younger readers, and a selected discography of currently available Anderson CDs are included. This inspiring work once again demonstrates Freedman's talent for showing how a person's life is molded by its historical and cultural context. Readers of Pam Munoz Ryan's When Marian Sang (Scholastic, 2002) will appreciate this lengthier account of Anderson's life, as will all readers of biography, U.S. history, and musical history.-Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939p. 1
2 Twenty-five Cents a Songp. 5
3 A Voice in a Thousandp. 21
4 Marian Feverp. 33
5 Banned by the DARp. 47
6 Singing to the Nationp. 59
7 Breaking Barriersp. 71
8 "What I Had Was Singing"p. 91
Chapter Notesp. 95
Selected Bibliographyp. 101
Selected Discographyp. 105
Acknowledgments and Picture Creditsp. 107
Indexp. 109