Marian Anderson (1897-1993) was world-renowned as a contralto. She also challenged racial barriers in the United States. Her dramatic open-air concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, after she was banned from singing in Constitution Hall, was delivered to 75,000 listeners. She was the first African American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in 1955.
The Marian Anderson Collection includes Anderson's personal papers--including letters, music scores, programs, photographs, and sound recordings--and affiliated materials, along with additional donations to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. All of these collections are housed in the Kislak Center.
In 2020, the Penn Libraries launched a new digital portal providing online access to important portions of the Marian Anderson Collection: Discovering Marian Anderson through the Collections at the University of Pennsylvania Library.
Collection overview and information for researchers
Researchers should be aware that materials by and relating to Marian Anderson are cataloged in a number of different collections. Following is a separation list. Note: links are provided either to archival finding aids or to search results in the Franklin catalog.
Documents and photographs
Ms. Coll. 198: Marian Anderson Collection of Photographs. 100 boxes. A near-comprehensive collection of photographic prints documenting the life and career of Marian Anderson. Digitized photographs are publicly available through ArtStor.
Ms. Coll. 200: Marian Anderson Papers, 1897-1993. 450 boxes. The main body of Marian Anderson's papers includes correspondence; business records and contracts; manuscript and typescript biographical materials; notes, journals, calendars, and financial documents; programs and publicity materials; awards and honorary degrees; clippings; scrapbooks; and memorabilia. Also included are materials from her sisters Alyse Anderson and Ethel De Preist, her mother Anna D. Anderson, and her husband, Orpheus H. Fisher.
Note: For a full listing of correspondence in the Marian Anderson Papers, researchers must search in the main online catalog, Franklin.
- Full listing of correspondents in the Marian Anderson Papers (in the online catalog, Franklin)
Ms. Coll. 708: Marian Anderson Supplementary Papers. 48 boxes. These additional donations include further correspondence; fan mail; business correspondence, records and contracts; manuscript and typescript biographical materials; notes, journals, calendars, and financial documents; correspondence and memorabilia from James DePreist; programs and publicity materials; clippings; awards and tributes; and memorabilia.
see also: Ms. Coll. 640: James DePreist Papers. 130 boxes. James DePreist (1936-2013), nephew of Marian Anderson, was an African American conductor of international renown. This collection documents DePreist's conducting career with the Oregon Symphony, including organizational records, concert programs, press coverage, scores, and recordings.
Manuscript and printed music
Ms. Coll. 199: Marian Anderson Collection of Music Manuscripts. 83 boxes. (Note: search result provides over 2000 items, sorted alphabetically by composer.) This collection includes music manuscripts acquired by Marian Anderson during her career: mainly songs submitted to Anderson, often with letters from the composers or lyricists. The collection includes approximately 66 sets of parts for instrumental or orchestral accompaniments, 173 settings of spirituals, 50 titles by Latin American composers, and 676 titles by women composers.
Rare Book Collection M1495.A64: Marian Anderson Collection of Printed Music. 66 boxes. (Note: search result provides over 2600 items, sorted alphabetically by composer.) Anderson's vast personal collection of music includes a wide range of vocal repertoire, primarily songs, by a wide spectrum of composers.
Audio materials and recorded sound
The portal Discovering Marian Anderson, launched in 2020, provides access to portions of the collection that have been of particular interest to researchers and students, including scrapbooks; notebooks and diaries; programs; photographs; recordings; and interviews.