The Sound of Freedom
Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America
By Raymond Arsenault
(Bloomsbury Press, Hardcover, 9781596915787, 320pp.)
Publication Date: March 31, 2009
List Price: $25.00*
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Award-winning civil rights historian Ray Arsenault describes the dramatic story behind Marian Anderson's concert at the Lincoln Memorial--an early milestone in civil rights history--on the seventieth anniversary of her performance.
On Easter Sunday 1939, the brilliant vocalist Marian Anderson sang before a throng of seventy-five thousand at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington--an electrifying moment and an underappreciated milestone in civil rights history. Though she was at the peak of a dazzling career, Anderson had been barred from performing at the Daughters of the American Revolution's Constitution Hall because she was black. When Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR over the incident and took up Anderson's cause, however, it became a national issue. Like a female Jackie Robinson--but several years before his breakthrough--Anderson rose to a pressure-filled and politically charged occasion with dignity and courage, and struck a vital blow for civil rights.
In the 1963 March on Washington, Martin Luther King would follow, literally, in Anderson's footsteps. T his tightly focused, richly textured narrative by acclaimed historian Raymond Arsenault captures the struggle for racial equality in 1930s America, the quiet heroism of Marian Anderson, and a moment that inspired blacks and whites alike.
Raymond Arsenault is the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at the U niversity of South Florida, St. Petersburg. He is the author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, which was named an Editor’s Choice by the New York Times and one of the Best Books of 2006 by the Washington Post, and won the 2006 Owsley Prize of the Southern Historical Association as the best work in Southern history.
"In this moment of change and hope, Raymond Arsenault has gifted us with the perfect book for contemplation and activism. Deeply researched, vividly written, sparkling and dramatic, The Sound of Freedom is more than a biography of Marian Anderson, her struggles and triumphs over time. It is a call to reconsider the enduring legacies of our segregated heritage, our culture of disrespect. From Marian Anderson's Lincoln Memorial concert that 'awakened' the country to the cruelties and deprivations of apartheid America, every stunning detail of this bold and heartening book calls upon us to continue the still incomplete fight for liberty and justice for all."—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt, vols I & II
“[Arsenault] excels at contextualizing the concert, probing the ways in which Jim Crow laws and racial prejudices permeated all aspects of African-American life.”—Kirkus“A tightly focused look at the political and cultural events that led up to and came after her famous 1939 concert. It’s a story that’s well worth retelling.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times
“A notable addition to the historical record…Arsenault's book is a timely reminder of the worm of history turning once more. We have only just witnessed another triumphant procession on the Washington Mall, where another exemplary African-American, himself the product of another David and Delia, was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States - something Anderson would likely have been hard-pressed to imagine taking place.”—Boston Globe
“Outstanding…provides critical perspective on [Anderson’s] most significant achievement.”—Ron Wynn, Book Page