Reviews for Voice That Challenged a Nation : Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights


Booklist Reviews 2004 June #1
Gr. 4-8. In lush operatic style, Pam Munoz Ryan's picture-book biography When Marian Sang (2002), with beautiful illustrations by Brian Selznick, celebrated the triumph of the great African American vocalist in the face of the vicious segregation of her time. Now for middle-grade and junior-high readers comes this handsome, spaciously designed photo-biography. In his signature prose, plain yet eloquent, Freedman tells Anderson's triumphant story, with numerous black-and-white documentary photos and prints that convey her personal struggle, professional artistry, and landmark civil rights role. Everything leads up to her 1939 historic performance at the Lincoln Memorial, where, denied the right to sing at Constitution Hall, she thrilled a crowd of 75,000 and a national radio audience. Freedman reveals that Anderson never invited political confrontation, but with the support of such friends as Eleanor Roosevelt, she had a profound effect on the nation. Documentation is an essential part of her exciting story, with many pages of source notes as well as an enthusiastic, annotated bibliography, and, of course, a discography. Older readers and adults will want this, too. ((Reviewed June 1 & 15, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2004 Fall
Freedman's comprehensive account of Anderson's burgeoning career shows the singer's intensive study of and dedication to the classical concert and lieder repertory and presents her accomplishments as both an actor in and an emblem of her times. The many photos are well chosen; appended material includes source notes, a selective bibliography and discography, and an index. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2004 #3
Freedman begins his biography of the great contralto with a moment of silence--the one that fell just before Marian Anderson began to sing the first note of her Easter Sunday concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. From there, Freedman goes back to Anderson's childhood, moving quickly but gracefully to focus on her teenage years as a music student and the subsequent unfolding of her career--both setbacks and triumphs. Where other juvenile accounts of Anderson's life have portrayed her as a noble spirituals-singing civil rights heroine, Freedman corrects the balance, showing the singer's intensive study of and dedication to the classical concert and lieder repertory. Along with Arturo Toscanini's famous tribute ("A voice like yours is heard once in a hundred years"), Freedman includes an equally gallant remark by Jean Sibelius ("My ceiling is much too low for your voice"). Because his account of Anderson's burgeoning career is so comprehensive, Freedman gives the familiar events surrounding the Lincoln Memorial concert fresh resonance and drama, and here moves into his forte, showing the accomplishments of an individual as both an actor in and an emblem of her times. While the concert "established the Lincoln Memorial as moral high ground for generations of protesters," Anderson herself had a modest sense of her place in the controversy: "I had become, whether I liked it or not, a symbol, representing my people. I had to appear." The many photographs are well chosen and include concert and family pictures in addition to some examples of program notes for Anderson's recitals. Appended material includes thorough source notes arranged by chapter, a selective bibliography and discography, and an index. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2004 April #1
She had played the major cities in Europe, appeared before filled-to-capacity halls throughout the US, and been welcomed at the White House, but famous contralto Marian Anderson was turned down by Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The Daughters of the American Revolution, headquartered there, stood by their "white artists only" policy and wouldn't let her perform. But officials at Howard University, Eleanor Roosevelt, and others who believed in equal rights teamed up to organize a free public performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. On Easter Sunday, 1939, Anderson performed before 75,000 people and a national radio audience in an event that sent "a powerful message of defiance against the injustice of bigotry and racial discrimination." Anderson never saw herself as an activist, though, and Freedman never treats her as a symbol. He offers instead a fully realized portrait of a musical artist and her times. Well-chosen, well-placed archival photographs, clear writing, abundant research seamlessly woven into the text, and careful documentation make an outstanding, handsome biography. Freedman at his best. (chapter notes, bibliography, discography, acknowledgments, picture credits, index) (Nonfiction. 9+) Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2004 March #4
Newbery medalist Freedman (Lincoln: A Photobiography) succinctly traces the career of renowned contralto Marian Anderson (1897-1993) from her Philadelphia childhood, when she first revealed her extraordinary voice in church choirs. Throughout, the author describes the racial discrimination Anderson frequently encountered as an African-American artist, as well as her role in the struggle for civil rights, a role defined by her dignified yet determined response to racism. The gifted singer felt the sting of discrimination as a teen, when she tried to apply to a music conservatory and was told, "We don't take colored." Later, as she and her accompanist toured America, they were barred from hotels and restaurants and relegated to the Jim Crow cars of trains. Freedman provides thrilling accounts of Anderson's success and soaring reputation in Europe, where she performed for royalty, often singing in the native language of her audiences and eliciting the highest praise from maestro Arturo Toscanini, who told Anderson hers was a voice "heard once in a hundred years." Perhaps most poignant is Freedman's re-creation of Anderson's 1939 performance before 75,000 fans at the Lincoln Memorial, a concert precipitated by the DAR's refusal to allow a black singer to appear at its Constitutional Hall and accomplished largely through the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt. Copious quotes from Anderson's autobiography, papers and interviews allow her resonant voice-and personal grace-to animate these pages. Also included are abundant photos, newspaper clippings and reproductions of concert programs. An engrossing biography. Ages 9-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2004 July
Gr 5-9-In the initial chapter, Freedman movingly and dramatically sets the stage for the performer's historic 1939 Easter concert at the Lincoln Memorial. In less than two pages, he captures the huge crowd's eager anticipation, briefly describes the controversy sparked by the Daughters of the American Revolution's refusal to allow Anderson to appear at Constitution Hall, and mentions the significance of the concert. He leaves readers at the moment when "A profound hush settled over the crowd.- she closed her eyes, lifted her head, clasped her hands before her, and began to sing." The author then switches to a chronological account of Anderson's life from her childhood in Philadelphia through her acclaimed U.S. and European concert tours in the 1920s and 1930s. He then gives a fuller account of the famous outdoor concert, which he refers to as a milestone in both musical and civil rights history. Freedman acknowledges that the singer did not set out to be a political activist or a crusader for civil rights. Numerous archival photographs, thorough chapter notes, a selected bibliography of works for both adult and younger readers, and a selected discography of currently available Anderson CDs are included. This inspiring work once again demonstrates Freedman's talent for showing how a person's life is molded by its historical and cultural context. Readers of Pam Munoz Ryan's When Marian Sang (Scholastic, 2002) will appreciate this lengthier account of Anderson's life, as will all readers of biography, U.S. history, and musical history.-Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2004 August
Freedman creates a masterful biography of Marian Anderson. The first chapter opens with Anderson's free outdoor concert at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Easter Sunday in 1939. Photographs show the dignified singer in her mink at the top of the steps, her accompanist and various dignitaries behind her, in front of a crowd of 75,000 people. After the city's Constitution Hall denied the singer the right to perform because of her race, Anderson's concert proved to be a key event in the struggle for the civil rights of America's citizens of African descent. The rest of the book follows chronologically, beginning with the singer's birth. Each chapter opens with a large photograph and a quotation that gives the essence of the chapter. Some photos have been published in previous biographies of Anderson, but Freedman includes additional photographs of historic significance in the battle for civil rights, along with facsimiles of concert programs, newspaper headlines, and articles, which emphasize Freedman's chronicle of Anderson's worldwide musical success set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the United States The prose is sharp and clean with generous use of quotations. All quotes are rewritten and cited in the back as chapter notes, a choice that enhances the immediacy and clarity of the book. This book is for an older audience than recently published biographies of Anderson and is a superb choice to include in middle school and public library collections. Index was not seen.-Cynthia Grady Index. Illus. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. Discography. 4Q 4P M J Copyright 2004 Voya Reviews.

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