23 Inspiring Marian Anderson Quotes

Marian Anderson and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1943.

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An African American singer, Marian Anderson found more success and fame in Europe than America early in her career. In 1939, the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) refused to allow her to sing in their Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Partially because of the public attention brought by this incident, Marian Anderson became one of the best-known African American women of the 20th century.

On Racism

"I could not run away from the situation. I had become, whether I liked it or not, a symbol, representing my people. I had to appear."

"Sometimes, [racism is] like a hair across your cheek. You can't see it, you can't find it with your fingers, but you keep brushing at it because the feel of it is irritating."

"As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold the person down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might."

"None of us is responsible for the complexion of his skin. This fact of nature offers no clue to the character or quality of the person underneath."

"I have a great belief in the future of my people and my country."

"No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise."

On Leadership

"I suppose I might insist on making issues of things. But that is not my nature, and I always bear in mind that my mission is to leave behind me the kind of impression that will make it easier for those who follow."

"Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it."

Inspiring Quotes

"I forgave the DAR many years ago. You lose a lot of time hating people."

"I hadn't set out to change the world in any way, because I knew that I couldn't. And whatever I am, it is a culmination of the goodwill, the help, and understanding of the many people that I have met around the world who have, regardless of anything else, seen me as I am, not trying to be somebody else."

"It is my honest belief that to contribute to the betterment of something, one can do it best in the medium through which one expresses one's self most easily."

"There are many persons ready to do what is right because in their hearts they know it is right. But they hesitate, waiting for the other fellow to make the make the first move — and he, in turn, waits for you."

"Fear is a disease that eats away at logic and makes man inhuman."

"The minute a person whose word means a great deal to others dare to take the open-hearted and courageous way, many others follow."

"It is easy to look back, self-indulgently, feeling pleasantly sorry for oneself and saying I didn't have this and I didn't have that. But it is only the grown woman regretting the hardships of a little girl who never thought they were hardships at all. She had the things that really mattered."

"When you stop having dreams and ideals — well, you might as well stop altogether."

"Everyone has a gift for something, even if it is the gift of being a good friend."

"My mother always encouraged me to do anything I wanted."

"Prayer begins where human capacity ends."

Quotes About Singing and Music

"Certainly, I have my feelings about conditions that affect my people. But it is not right for me to try to mimic somebody who writes, or who speaks. That is their forte. I think first of music and of being there where music is, and of music being where I am. What I had was singing, and if my career has been of some consequence, then that's my contribution."

"Music to me means so much, such beautiful things, and it seemed impossible that you could find people who would curb you, stop you, from doing a thing which is beautiful. I wasn't trying to sway anybody into any movements or anything of that sort, you know. I just wanted to sing and share."

"I do not have to tell you that I dearly love the Negro spirituals. They are the unburdenings of the sorrows of an entire race, which, finding scant happiness on Earth, turns to the future for its joys."

"They are my own music. But it not for that reason that I love to sing them. I love them because they are truly spiritual in quality; they give forth the aura of faith, simplicity, humility, and hope."

Quotes About Marian Anderson

Leontyne Price: "Dear Marian Anderson, because of you, I am."

About Marian Anderson, by Harold C. Schoenberg, music critic, on the occasion of Anderson's farewell concert: 

It was Miss Anderson who stood as a symbol for the emergence of the Negro; and while she herself never militantly participated in the civil rights movement, she was revered as one who, by the force of her personality, talent and probity, was able to become a world figure despite her humble birth and minority status. In a way, she was part of the American dream. And her success story was an inspiration to younger Negro musicians.