The legacy of the great singer Marian Anderson (born and raised here in Philadelphia) encompasses both astounding artistry and great courage in facing the ugliness of racism. After being denied the right to sing to an integrated audience at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution, her Easter Sunday concert on the nearby steps of the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939 electrified listeners around the country and made her a household name in the United States. However, American listeners were late to the game—she was such a popular performer throughout Europe that “Marian fever” was a named phenomenon in (among other places) Sweden and Finland.
Beginning in 1927, Marian traveled frequently to Europe to study, train, and perform, and met with overwhelming success. Many of her voyages were taken on ships of the French Line, which at this point was one of the few major shipping companies to treat black passengers on an equal footing to white ones. Her first voyage, in October of 1927, was on board the S.S. “Ile de France”—a ship she sailed on several times. Her personal photo albums, held today in the in the @kislakcenter at the Penn Libraries ( @upennlib) are liberally sprinkled with images of Marian, always dressed to the nines, in the first class quarters of several of the premiere liners of the day. Here we see her on board the “Normandie” sometime in 1935, first on the boat deck, then in the First Class Winter Garden, and then finally in the music room off the first class salon. Pictured with her is her longtime accompanist, Finnish pianist Kosti Vehanen. (📷: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts; Marian Anderson Collection of Photographs, 1898-1992, Ms, Coll. 198, Vol 7, Page 27-29)
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