The University of Wisconsin Press

Autobiography / Music / Cultural Studies / African American Studies


My Lord, What a Morning
An Autobiography
Marian Anderson
Introduction by Nellie Y. McKay

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
William L. Andrews, Series Editor

Marian Anderson’s account of her life is like her glorious contralto voice—effortless, inspiring, and deeply moving. Her musical gift has been one of the greatest in modern memory—Toscanini said a voice like hers happens only once in a hundred years. The autobiography of this extraordinary woman is now available for readers of a new generation. Like the voice, too, the book expresses its author’s warm and reverent approach to living and to music. Anderson tells of her struggles as an aspiring singer and an African American woman in the 1930s and 1940s. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she began her career singing in churches, charging only a small fee for her blossoming talent. She lacked a formal musical education until the age of nineteen, when she began formal voice studies with the renowned Giuseppe Boghetti. Four years later, she appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic. Anderson went on to tour the United States and Europe, achieving international fame. Although successful, she always stressed the necessity of faith and modesty. Even when her popularity reached its peak, she refused to be a prima donna, often sewing her own clothes.

As an African American artist, Marian Anderson often faced racism in overt and subtle forms, but she refused to let racism become a focal point of her career. She treated everyone with dignity and courtesy and displayed the utmost professionalism in everything she did. In 1939, Anderson reluctantly became a national symbol in the movement for racial equality. She was denied the right to sing in Constitution Hall because of her skin color. With the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, she gave a free outdoor concert instead on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It became the most famous moment of her career. “I had become, whether I liked it or not, a symbol, representing my people.”

Marian Anderson, born in 1897, died in April of 1993. Her autobiography was first published in 1956. Nellie Y. McKay was a professor of English and Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

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February 1992
LC: 92-050262 ML
328 pp. 6 x 9
14 halftones
Paper ISBN 978-0-299-13394-8
Cloth ISBN 978-0-299-13390-0

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