From the time she was a child growing up poor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, opera singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993) sang like an angel, with a range and purity seldom heard.
"If you have a purpose in which you can believe, there's no end to the amount of things you can accomplish," said the brilliant contralto.
In 1939, Anderson made history on Easter Sunday when she sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The concert was arranged by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and the NCAACP after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let Anderson perform at Washington's Constitution Hall because she was black.
"You lose a lot of time hating people," Anderson once said.
"A voice like hers comes once in a century," said symphony conductor Arturo Toscanini
Over 75,000 attended that historical concert. Thousands of others heard her rich, deep voice over the radio. The Lincoln Memorial concert made Anderson an international star.
"It was a tremendous thing and my heart beat like mad--it never beat like that before--loud and strong as though it wanted to say something," Anderson recalled. "I just wanted to sing and share."
The first black soloist to sing with the Metropolitan Opera of New York City (1955), Anderson returned to Washington D.C. in 1961 to sing the national anthem at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.
"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," observed the openhearted and courageous singer for civil rights.
Dare to be openhearted and courageous.