The Harmon Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in New York City and active from (1922-1967) included this portrait in their exhibition “Portraits of Outstanding Americans of Negro Origins” which documented noteworthy African Americans’ contributions to the country. Modeling their goal of social equality, the Harmon sought portraits from an African-American artist, Laura Wheeler Waring and Euro-American artist, Betsy Graves Reyneau. The two painters followed the conventional codes of academic portraiture, seeking to convey their sitters extraordinary accomplishments. This painting, along with a variety of educational materials, toured nation-wide for ten years serving as a visual rebuttal to racism.
Born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
One of the outstanding voices of the twentieth century, contralto Marian Anderson-like many African American artists of the time-first achieved success in Europe. Impresario Sol Hurok convinced her to return to America, and a triumphant 1935 concert secured her reputation. In 1939 she became embroiled in a historic event when the Daughters of the American Revolution banned her appearance at its Constitution Hall because she was black. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt intervened and facilitated Anderson's Easter Sunday outdoor concert at the Lincoln Memorial-an event witnessed by 75,000 and broadcast to a radio audience of millions. In 1955 Anderson was invited to appear at the Metropolitan Opera, becoming the first African American to sing an important role with that company.
Laura Wheeler Waring painted this portrait for the Harmon Foundation, an organization that promoted appreciation of African American heritage. The picture was part of a collection of likenesses that the foundation circulated around the country for many years.
Commissioned by the Harmon Foundation, New York; gift 1967 to NPG.