Marian Anderson: The Voice That Refused to Be Silenced

The world-renowned contralto will be remembered for her iconic Lincoln Memorial open-air concert 75 years ago.


The Of Thee We Sing: The Marian Anderson 75th Anniversary Celebration will commemorate the life of the singer in a way that truly illustrates how she inspired a nation of young performers—through music, stories and video.

For Grymes, “Aunt Marian” was always a “central figure” in her and her relative’s eyes. Even now, looking back several years after Anderson’s death, the 75-year-old remembers fondly the impact the singer had on her own life.

“What [she] signaled for me was that there was this larger world out there. I had a relative who was part of a larger world and so for me she symbolized limitless possibilities,” said Grymes, who is now retired, but pours her efforts into keeping the singer’s legacy intact.

Grymes said, “We could explore and actualize ourselves in ways that might not be apparent or expected because she did the most unexpected thing. As a young black woman, she did the most unexpected thing in a world that tried to deny her many times.”

Soprano Jessye Norman, a longtime friend of Anderson’s and a fellow celebrated singer will be hosting the event. Entertainer Dionne Warwick, vocal group 3WB, composer Ysaye Barnwell, actor Malcolm Jamal-Warner and others will also be featured. The program will draw heavily on the classical and African-American spiritual repertoire that was characteristic of Anderson’s career.

“We were grateful for her example. Hers is a remarkable story of triumph and challenge, and she transformed racial injustice into opportunities to make a deeper statement, and that was what she did,” Grymes said of Anderson, who died in 1993 at the age of 96.

“She was very courageous, and she was a woman who would not be denied, and that, I think, was part of her legacy to us in the family. Keep forging ahead and do what you feel you must and not get beaten down by all these external barriers, and try to rise above.”

The Marian Anderson commemoration will be held April 12 at the historic DAR Constitution Hall (an irony there) starting at 7 p.m. The concert is sold out.

Breanna Edwards is a newswriter at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.