Fellows' Presentation

Marian Anderson and the Desegregation of the American Concert Stage

Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial, 1939. Photo courtesy of Library of CongressMarian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial, 1939. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Part of the 2016–2017 Fellows' Presentation Series

Lecture by Carol J. Oja RI '17

Free and open to the public.


Hailed as one of the greatest singers of the 20th century, Marian Anderson used her talent and celebrity to advance civil rights. Her 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial defied a ban excluding African American performers from Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, and her 1955 debut at the Metropolitan Opera ended the Met’s exclusion of African American singers in starring roles. This lecture—which includes audio and video of Anderson in performance—repositions those landmarks as part of the little-discussed history of institutional segregation in the classical music business.

Carol J. Oja. Photo by Tony RinaldoCarol J. Oja. Photo by Tony RinaldoCarol J. Oja, the William Powell Mason Professor of Music at Harvard, is the 2016–2017 Frieda L. Miller Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute. While at Radcliffe, Oja continues her work on “Black Virtuosos and Civil Rights,” which aims for a cultural history of a breakthrough generation of African American performing artists in classical music. Racial practices at the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic are the primary focus. Oja’s project involves deep archival research, and it benefits hugely from access to digitized black newspapers.


This presentation is part of HUBweek, a creative festival founded by the Boston Globe, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Mass General Hospital to celebrate innovation at the intersection of art, science, and technology. Learn more at HUBweek.org.