Their creators will both be receiving Philadelphia’s Marian Anderson Award this year.
WHYY’s Alex Schmidt reports that the award, given out once a year to honor artists whose work improves society, will be going to television producer Norman Lear and author Maya Angelou.
Angelou and Lear are both being recognized for their artistic contributions and their work as defenders of civil rights. According to the Inquirer coverage of the event, Lear and Angelou also share a unique connection:
“I’ll be receiving two awards that night,” Lear said yesterday in a phone interview. “First is the Marian Anderson prize honoring a great American activist. Second is sharing the stage with the wonderful Maya Angelou, godmother of my twin daughters.”
That last fact had come as a surprise to Pamela A. Crawley, chair of the award. “We had no knowledge of that before we made the decision,” Crawley said yesterday.
The award ceremony will be held on November 17, at the Kimmel Center. Past honorees include Sidney Poitier, Danny Glover, Quincy Jones and Oprah Winfrey.
But who was Marian Anderson? According to her bio on the award’s website, Anderson was born in Philadelphia in 1897, lived at Fitzwater and Martin Streets (in the neighborhood that now bears her name), and began her singing career as a child at her church.
Marian continued to sing through high school at South Philly High, where “she gained recognition and assistance from prominent audience members.”
After being rejected from music school because of her race, Marian received lessons from a couple private and well known teachers.
Anderson would go on to battle racism in the arts throughout her career before finally being hired by the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York. She was the first black singer to perform for the Met.