Famed singer Marian Anderson performed memorably in York

York accepted what D.C. rejected.
That story with that theme was told in this week’s York Sunday News, and it’s one of my favorite stories from York County’s past.
It involves renowned singer Marian Anderson performing at William Penn High School before a mixed-race audience. It happened in 1941, two years after she was rejected at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. She subsequently performed at the Lincoln Memorial to wide acceptance.
Interesting. Some question York’s enlightment on racial issues, but, in this case, York accepted Anderson at a prime venue after D.C. rejected her… .


This story was part of our 30-part series on the Crispus Attucks Community Center, running in the Viewpoints section of the York Sunday News.
To see the series, click here:
Here’s the story as found in “Never to be Forgotten:”

1941: York
Anderson, Hayes perform
Contralto Marian Anderson and tenor Roland W. Hayes, billed as the foremost black singers in America, captivate an audience of about 600 people in the William Penn High School auditorium. The singers’ repertoire ranges from Negro ballads and spirituals to interpretations from French and Italian compositions. They jointly performed Muldach’s “The Passage Bird’s Farewell” as their closing number. A newspaper reported that the mixed audience of white and black music lovers provided equal doses of applause and requested numerous encores. Two years earlier, the Daughters of the American Revolution denied Anderson permission to sing in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., because of race. The Philadelphia native sang instead at the Lincoln Memorial before 75,000 people. Conductor Arturo Toscanini praised Anderson’s voice as one “heard once in a hundred years.”

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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