November 5, 1947: Opera star and civil rights activist Marian Anderson performs at Duluth Armory

On this day in Duluth in 1947, noted contralto and civil rights activist Marian Anderson performed at the 1915 Armory. Her performance on the Armory stage was the same program she would present the following week at Carnegie Hall, but while in Duluth she made a bigger hit speaking at the Zenith City’s Covenant Club. There she was welcomed by “people of several creeds and colors” including Duluth mayor George W. Johnson, who was addressed as the “Lord High Mayor of the Duchy of Duluth.” Johnson bestowed upon Anderson the honorary title of “Ambassador Extraordinary” and she was presented with “an aquamarine and beige plaid lumberjack shirt made in Duluth” which she promised to wear “on crisp days on her Connecticut farm.” The Duluth News Tribune had high praise for the singer, describing her laugh as “melodic as a song” and stating that her charm “left no question of her greatness as a personality as well as a singer.” These qualities, the paper said, “put people at their ease,” and that she “spoke with candor and perception on questions invariably posed when this leader of her race visits a community.” But the paper failed to mention those questions and her perceptive replies. The paper did record one statement made by Anderson: “I think if each of us is accepted on the basis of what he has to offer, we can make our contribution a color that will harmonize with the whole humans scheme.”

Marian Anderson. (Image: Public Domain)