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Famed African-American Singer Marion Anderson performed in St. Cloud – On ‘This Date In Central Minnesota History’

Photo of Marion Anderson courtesy of Stearns History Museum

ST. CLOUD - April 24th, 1942 – Famed African-American contralto Marian Anderson gives concert in St. Cloud.

Marian Anderson is considered one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th Century. As an African-American, she was an important figure in the struggle for racial equality for Black artists. She faced a lot of prejudice in her singing career. In fact, just three years before her concert in St. Cloud, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused permission for her to sing at their concert hall in Washington, D.C. With the aid of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, she performed an open-air concert on Easter Sunday, 1939, at the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions.

Marian arrived in St. Cloud by train around 11:00 am on April 24th, 1942. She was greeted at the train depot in East St. Cloud by the president and secretary of the Civic Music Association, William S. Weber and Myrl Carlsen. She stayed with Alice Whitney during her stay here. She was brought to St. Cloud by the Civic Music Association, and her concert was the finale of their 1941-1942 season. The Technical High School auditorium was at capacity for the concert. The St. Cloud Times described the experience: “Miss Anderson’s hearers were aware of the presence of high art; that this concert was one of the greatest which St. Cloud has been privileged to hear.”

Marian Anderson became the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 7, 1955. In 1957, she sang for President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration and in 1961, she sang for the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. She died on April 8, 1993 at the age of 96 of congestive heart failure.

Thanks to Sarah Warmka and the Stearns History Museum for their help with our series, “This Date In Central Minnesota History”.

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