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This Day In History: New York Metropolitan Opera Hires First Black Singer, Marian Anderson

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MARIAN ANDERSON
Singer Marian Anderson holds a Korean doll in her New York apartment, Aug. 5, 1958. The doll and the shawl she is wearing are gifts received on a trip to the Far East. Miss Anderson became a member of the United States delegation to the United Nations, which she sees as an opportunity to contribute to the mutual understandings of people. (AP Photo) | AP

In 1954, the New York Metropolitan Opera hired Marian Anderson making her the first black singer that the famed opera house signed on. Anderson would make her debut performance with the company three months later, on January 7, 1955.

Before the big hire, Anderson made a name for herself performing at venues like Carnegie Hall. However, she did encounter barriers and discrimination because of her race. In 1939, the manager of Washington, D.C.'s Constitution Hall did not allow her to perform. When the public got word that this was due to Anderson's race, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt spoke out against it. The Roosevelt's later invited Anderson to perform at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday of that year, in front of a crowd of 75,000.

marian anderson
Marian Anderson, the first African American soloist ever to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House, sings "Ave Maria" on the stage of Carnegie Hall, in what was billed as her farewell performance, April 18, 1965.

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