Rare Book & Manuscript Library

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Scope and Content Note

The Marian Anderson Papers and related collections at the University of Pennsylvania are the principal repository for documents concerning Marian Anderson's career and personal life. The Papers comprise 495 boxes and include correspondence, business records and contracts, manuscript and typescript biographical materials; plus Anderson's notes, journals, calendars, and financial documents. Programs and publicity materials documenting her career as a world-class contralto are extensive, as is the collection of awards and honorary degrees she received during her long and memorable life. Also included are scrapbooks, memorabilia, and some materials belonging to her sisters Alyse Anderson and Ethel De Preist; her mother, Anna D. Anderson, and her husband, Orpheus H. Fisher.

Marian Anderson's donations to the University of Pennsylvania comprised much more than her papers. Her entire music library, collection of sound recordings, and her photographs were received with her papers and have been separately cataloged. Marian Anderson's music library contains more than 2, 000 songs in manuscript, including many by the African-American composer Florence Price and other important composers (Ms. Coll. 199). Her library of printed scores, also numbering more than 2, 000 items have been cataloged individually. Interviews with Howard Taubman and with Studs Terkel and lectures featuring Miss Anderson on audio tape have been preserved and cataloged (Ms. Coll. 201, 202, and 203). Other audio tapes feature home studio recordings made by Anderson, rehearsals, vocal coaching, and test pressings of her recordings (Ms. Coll. 204, 205, 206, 207, 208, 209, and 210). There are more than 4, 400 photographs in the collection, all preserved in albums (Ms. Coll. 198) and scanned on the website of Penn's Rare Book & Manuscript Library (http://www.library.upenn.edu/special/photos/anderson/) . A complete separation list is provided at the end of this register.

Anderson made her first donation of materials to the University of Pennsylvania in 1977, with additional large donations of papers in 1987 and in 1991. Her decision to place her papers at the University was made in consultation with her nephew, conductor James De Preist, who is an alumnus of the University. Anderson wished that her music library be made available to other students of music and that her personal memorabilia be accessible to the people of Philadelphia at this University just a short distance from the neighborhood where she grew up.

One is tempted, because it appears that Marian Anderson saved "everything, " including grocery and laundry lists and menus written on the backs of receipts and on the cardboard inserts from hosiery packages, simply to describe her papers at the University of Pennsylvania as "comprehensive." However, both because Anderson was essentially a very private person and because there are strengths and weaknesses in this collection as a record of her career, the following considerations on the scope and content of these papers should be noted.

Relatively few items of correspondence or memorabilia from Anderson's early life are preserved in her papers. Those that survive include a few school notebooks, several photographs, and a few important early letters. Although Anderson performed publicly from at least 1915 on, these papers have only sixteen Marian Anderson programs dated before 1926. There is also little documentation for the last years of Anderson's life, with the exception of a few articles about her dated through 1997. The bulk of materials in this collection are dated 1926 to 1980, with few items from Anderson's earliest and later years of life.

General Correspondence comprises 6, 500 folders, representing more than 6, 000 individual correspondents. Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and then chronologically within each correspondent's file. Items of incoming and outgoing correspondence are interfiled throughout. Unidentified correspondence is filed at the end of the General Correspondence. Anderson's outgoing correspondence was handled in various ways during the course of her career. When Billy King was performing with her, he handled most of the business correspondence, and we have carbon copies of some of his letters signed for Marian Anderson. When Anderson was in Europe in the 1930s, she answered most of her correspondence herself, and there are handwritten drafts of letters composed to some of her important correspondents--Judson, the Julius Rosenwald Foundation, Harry T. Burleigh and others. Anderson's correspondence with her European managers was probably handled by Kosti Vehanen and only a few copies survive. Marian's sisters, particularly Alyse Anderson, answered correspondence that reached Marian Anderson at the family home, 762 S. Martin Street, Philadelphia. Alyse was the paid secretary for the Marian Anderson Scholarship Fund from 1943 until Alyse's death in 1965. From about 1942 through the mid-1950s, Orpheus H. Fisher also answered a number of letters to Anderson and identified himself as "business manager." Beginning in 1958 with her appointment to the United Nations as an alternate delegate, Anderson had professional secretarial assistance from Jere True for 1958-1959, then from Mary S. Dolan 1960-1969, and from Dorothy Farrington from 1969-1980s; none of these individuals, however, was a full-time secretary. Anderson's mail sometimes went unanswered for months while she was touring, although she always made an effort ultimately to answer each correspondent.

Letters from Marian Anderson to her mother, Anna D. Anderson, in the 1930s, and later to her husband, Orpheus H. Fisher, were written while she was on tour, in North America, in Europe, or South America, and give a picture of her routine on the road, with anecdotes about her traveling companions in the 1940s and 1950s, her accompanist Franz Rupp and the business manager for Hurok Concerts, Isaac A. Jofe. Anderson was not a philosophical or self-revealing letter writer, however, and few of her letters express her feelings on religion, love, or racial politics. She was interested in current events, in the places and people she visited, in food, home decorating, gardening, and her old neighbors and friends in South Philadelphia, and these are the interests expressed in her letters.

The Marian Anderson Papers preserve her correspondence with thousands of organizations, mostly in the United States, some from abroad. These include many sectarian groups, churches, and synagogues, and thus are a resource for the study of religion in the United States of America in the twentieth century. Many church leaders and some of her admirers perceived Anderson as a spiritual figure and wrote to her about their religious experiences and beliefs. Marian Anderson had close associations with many Jewish friends and with Jewish organizations, and to a certain extent, her papers are a resource for studying the alliances between African-Americans and Jews in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the organizations with correspondence in these papers focused on issues of international cooperation, world peace, problems of refugees and hunger, social justice, racial equality, support for political candidates, and education.

Music, however, is the primary focus of much of the correspondence. Of the individuals who wrote to Anderson, many are composers, both well-known and unknown, who sent their original songs to her in the hope that she would study and perform them. Among the important composers and arrangers represented in the correspondence series are: Victor Babin, Irving Berlin, Eubie Blake, Harry T. Burleigh, Charles Wakefield Cadman, Will Marion Cook, Aaron Copland, Cecil Cohen, James Francis Cooke, William L. Dawson, Teresa Del Riego, R. Nathaniel Dett, Nicholas Douty, Howard Hanson, Edward Ellsworth Hipsher, Hall Johnson, Paul Krummeich, Frances McCollin, Leo Marjamaki, Gian-Carlo Menotti, Kurt Pahlen, Florence B. Price, Roger Quilter, Roman Ryterband, Geni Sadero (who was also Marian Anderson's coach for Italian during the 1930s in Europe), Jean Sibelius, Elie Siegmeister, William Grant Still, Howard Swanson, Kosti Vehanen, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Clarence Cameron White. Sibelius dedicated his song "Solitude" to Marian Anderson, the manuscript forms part of the Marian Anderson Collection of Manuscript Music (Ms. Coll. 199). Approximately a third of the composers who sent manuscripts to Anderson for her consideration were women; these papers and scores are thus an important resource for studying the work of women composers in the twentieth century.

In addition, Anderson corresponded and remained friends with many prominent conductors and musicians, including: Frederic Balazs, Leonard Bernstein, Antal Dorati, Boris Goldovsky, Kurt Johnen, Serge Koussevitzky, Sixten Malming, Pierre Monteux, Eugene Ormandy, Mstislav Rostropovich, Fabian Sevitzky, Isaac Stern, Leopold Stokowski, and Tullio Voghera.

Singers and actors represented in the Marian Anderson Papers include: Josephine Baker, McHenry Boatwright, Lillian Evanti, Eva Gautier, Elena Gerhardt, Dick Gregory, Helen Hayes, Roland Hayes, Raymond Massey, Dorothy Maynor, Jan Peerce, Ezio Pinza, Sidney Poitier, Lily Pons, Leontyne Price, Lawrence Tibbett, Richard Tucker, and William Warfield, among many others.

Anderson corresponded with many African-American educators, scholars, musicians, and leaders of the struggle for civil rights in the United States. Among them are Ralph Bunche, Shirley Chisholm, W. E. B. DuBois, Duke Ellington, Lester B. Granger, Dorothy I. Height, Charlotte Moton Hubbard, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr., Alain LeRoy Locke, Thurgood Marshall, Camille Nickerson, Adam Clayton Powell, Jackie Robinson, Leon Sullivan, Anson Phelphs Stokes, and Walter White and Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Her papers also document the lives and aspirations of many less well-known African Americans and many civic organizations founded by and for African Americans.

Writers, editors, scholars, artists, and prominent figures who corresponded with Marian Anderson include Norman Cousins, Frank Crowninshield, Margaret Cuthbert, Dorothy Fields, Henry Ford, Leo Friedlander, R. Buckminster Fuller, Moss Hart, Melville J. Herskovits, Archibald MacLeish, Reinhold Niebuhr, Norman Vincent Peale, Florence M. Read, and Rex Stout among many others.

World leaders and ambassadors who corresponded with Anderson include Syngman Rhee and Francesca Donner Rhee of Korea; Jawalharlall Nehru and Indira Gandhi of India; Golda Meir of Israel; U Nu and U Thant of Burma. There is correspondence in the Marian Anderson Papers with each United States President from Truman to Bush, although she was associated most closely with the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations. Anderson's correspondence includes letters from John Foster Dulles, Ramsey Clark, Harold L. Ickes, Robert F. Kennedy, Edward M. Kennedy, Hubert H. Humphrey, George McGovern, Adlai E. Stevenson, and Lady Bird Johnson, who invited Marian Anderson to tour with her. In addition to Anderson's correspondence with Eleanor Roosevelt, which spans the years from 1939 to 1962, Anderson also remained in contact with the Roosevelts' children, including John A. Roosevelt, James Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Anna Roosevelt.

Marian Anderson corresponded with a large number of governors, mayors, congressional representatives, senators, and other representatives of state and local governments. The most important of these were New York's governor Nelson A. Rockefeller; New York mayors Abraham D. Beame, Fiorello La Guardia, Robert F. Wagner, John V. Lindsay, and Ed Koch; and Connecticut's governors John Dempsey and Ella T. Grasso and Senator Abraham Ribicoff.

Management Correspondence from Marian Anderson Management, Concert Management Arthur Judson, and from William L. King gives a fairly comprehensive record of her career performances from 1926 through 1932. Beginning in 1930 Anderson saved most of her contracts and correspondence with her managers and other impresarios in Europe and South America through 1938. Most of this material is in German, some is in French, Italian, Spanish, and other languages (including Russian, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, and Polish).

Anderson signed her first contract with Sol Hurok in Paris on 15 July 1934 and began her performances in the United States under Hurok's management in December 1935. She remained under Hurok's management for the rest of her career. Sol Hurok's management firm was sold in the 1970s and later acquired by ICM. Although there are some materials--correspondence, contracts, and itineraries--from each of these Hurok years up through 1977, they are by no means complete or comprehensive. For a number of these years, the weekly or bi-weekly account statements from Hurok are the most complete record of Marian Anderson's concert activity.

The letters from admirers, or "fan mail" in the Marian Anderson Papers contain a number of extraordinary testimonies and emotional responses to Anderson's performances and reveal her dignity and presence as a public figure. The writers represent a broad cross-section of Americans from many ethnic, racial, and socio-economic groups, with a large number from Europe and other countries around the world where Anderson toured. The fan mail is a resource for the study of the impact of the media on the image of the performer, from the intimacy of radio broadcasts in the 1940s to the extravaganzas of television specials in the 1960s and 1970s.

The fan mail comprises one small and two larger groups of correspondence. First are poems, usually sent with letters, that are tributes to Marian Anderson. Most are by amateurs but a few are the work of established poets, including Gwendolyn Brooks. In the case of poems by known authors, each has been cataloged individually in RLIN, whose public interface is known as Eureka. The remainder are arranged alphabetically by the last name of the author.

The second group is correspondence from children and schools. All material from elementary or secondary schools has been filed together in this series and includes fan letters from children (some with responses from Miss Anderson), drawings by children, some photographs of school children, letters from teachers, correspondence concerning Anderson's visits to certain schools, and the naming of schools after Marian Anderson. Approximately 250 schools are represented, and there is an additional box of fan letters written by admirers under the age of eighteen, arranged chronologically.

The third group of letters from admirers comprises the bulk of the fan mail, arranged geographically (letters from European fans are arranged separately from letters from United States fans), then chronologically (all 1939 fan mail, including responses to Marian Anderson's historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial is foldered together), and finally alphabetically within each folder. There over 2, 000 letters (some with responses from Anderson or her secretary) in this series, dated from 1924 to 1991.

Marian Anderson's speeches, writings, and scripts for performances form a relatively small part of the papers. Anderson was not a writer and many of the speeches she gave and articles she wrote, mostly for publicity purposes for Hurok Concerts, were the work of other authors and publicists. There are scripts for her live radio broadcasts, primarily for the Bell Telephone Hour, but also for a number of other radio shows and television broadcasts.

The story of Marian Anderson's life attracted much attention from the press over the years of her career but no full scholarly biography was attempted during her lifetime, partly because of her reluctance to speak about herself. Her autobiography, My Lord, What a Morning, was ghost written by Howard Taubman in 1956 and is based on transcriptions of interviews he conducted with Anderson. These materials--articles about Marian Anderson, taped interviews, transcriptions, and the typescript for her autobiography--all form part of the Marian Anderson Papers.

Marian Anderson's personal journals, diaries, and notebooks were kept primarily for the purpose of recording itineraries and expenses for income tax purposes, although some of them were used to record Anderson's impressions as she toured. While very open to people whom she met and with whom she talked, Marian Anderson was not inclined to write about her personal feelings or to analyze some of the issues, including race, about which she constantly was asked. In general, Anderson's letters to her family members are a better source for her thoughts and reactions to the events of her life than are her journals.

Materials related to Marian Anderson's family members are very limited in scope and quantity. There are some notes that Anna D. Anderson made just after her trip to visit Marian in Europe in 1934, and some correspondence related to her rental of a summer home in Pleasantville, New Jersey. There are more papers from Alyse's life. She was involved in Democratic politics in Philadelphia, was a singer and actress, and administered the Marian Anderson Scholarship Fund. Very few items concerning Ethel De Preist are included in these papers. Materials for Orpheus H. Fisher and Marianna Farms include some correspondence, leases and deeds, and some receipts for expenses.

Financial records in the Marian Anderson Papers provide some insights into her expenses and income but are by no means complete. She kept records and receipts for income taxes; these materials were not in any order when received at the University of Pennsylvania. An attempt has been made to arrange them chronologically, but many are undated. The best source for information about Marian Anderson's income from her concert tours are the Hurok Concerts Account statements, which were mailed to her on a regular basis when she was touring. During her career, Marian Anderson's legal matters were attended to by Judge Hubert T. Delany of New York from about 1929 to the 1940s and by George W. Crawford of Hartford, Connecticut, from 1945 to 1969. Delany set up accounts for Marian Anderson's support of her mother and sisters and set up the accounts for the Marian Anderson Scholarship Fund, which Anderson continued to contribute to until it was discontinued in 1973.

Programs for Anderson's performances in the Marian Anderson Papers are a valuable resource for the study of her repertoire, which was far more extensive than is commonly realized. Her name was constantly associated with Schubert's "Ave Maria" and with spirituals, especially "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, " but she performed over 200 songs, and spent considerable time studying each and translating the lyrics for herself to aid in her interpretation of each piece. There are also programs from a number of other performers, both in the program series and as enclosures in correspondence from singers to Anderson.

Publicity materials from Hurok Concerts are extensive and complete for most years. These include press releases, press kits, posters, photographs, and souvenir program books. They document Hurok's tremendous success in promoting Marian Anderson. Anderson recorded for RCA Victor throughout her career and RCA's publicity materials form part of this series. There are fewer materials from Concert Management Arthur Judson. Newspaper clippings, arranged chronologically, document much of her public life. These materials also are found in the series of scrapbooks, some compiled by Hurok Concerts, Inc., some compiled by family and friends, and some compiled by fans. Researchers should be aware that some correspondence and photographs are mounted in scrapbooks and not indexed.

The Marian Anderson Scholarship Fund papers are incomplete, with some years more fully represented than others. This annual contest and award was founded by Marian Anderson to aid young singers of all races and backgrounds. Records include copies of application forms, lists of suggested repertoire for the contestants, and information from the judging for some years, which was usually held at the Ethical Society in Philadelphia. There are applications and individual files for some of the winners of the award including Grace Bumbry, Mattiwilda Dobbs, Reri Grist, Florence Quivar, and Shirley Verrett.

Awards and honorary degrees form a large part of the bulk of the Anderson Papers and are described in the container list. They include the Spingarn Medal awarded by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Grammy Nominations, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Honor, among several hundred awards. In some cases, information about a given award may be found in several locations--in General Correspondence under the name of the organization that gave the award, in the files of certificates given with the award, in programs for the occasion, and on the award itself, boxed with three-dimensional items.

Memorabilia consists of gifts received and kept by Anderson--dolls, prints, scarves, handkerchiefs--and other materials she saved, including greeting cards and postage stamps. Where greeting cards form part of the correspondence with people she knew well, the cards are filed in General Correspondence, other are boxed in Memorabilia.

The final series, materials related to Marian Anderson's tenure on Boards of Directors, and her service as a Trustee or Commissioner comprises minutes of meetings, memoranda, newsletters, and other materials sent to Anderson in her capacity as a director or trustee, arranged chronologically. Correspondence with these organizations will be found in General Correspondence. Only routine memoranda are found in the last series. A list of these organizations can be found in Appendix A.


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Last update: Friday, 31-Jan-2003 20:55:52 EST
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