One Life: Marian Anderson

June 28, 2019 - March 13, 2020
The museum closed on March 13, 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will present “One Life: Marian Anderson,” an exhibition exploring the life of the famed contralto, her achievements and how she became a symbol of the civil rights movement. Recognized as one of the greatest American singers of the 20th century, Anderson is perhaps best remembered for her legendary performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where she sang in 1939 after segregationist policies barred her from theaters across Washington, D.C. However, this exhibition broadens the focus, delving into underexplored moments of Anderson’s decades-long career as a celebrated singer and diplomat. It also highlights the ways she inspired visual artists, ranging from Harlem Renaissance painter Beauford Delaney to fashion photographer Irving Penn.

“One Life: Marian Anderson” will be on view June 28 through May 17, 2020. The Portrait Gallery exhibition is curated by Leslie Ureña, associate curator of photographs. It coincides with two Institution-wide initiatives organized by the Smithsonian, including the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, “Because of Her Story,” and the 2019 celebration of the Smithsonian’s Year of Music.

Selected images: 

Our Thanks

One Life: Marian Anderson has been made possible by the Guenther and Siewchin Yong Sommer Endowment Fund. Additional support for the interactive kiosk was provided by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.

This project also received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. 

Generous funding was also received from:
The 19th Society, Mary and David Boies, The Case Foundation, Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, David M. Rubenstein, Elaine P. Wynn & Family Foundation, Acton Family Giving,  HISTORY/A+E Networks