“Marian Anderson Tells Audience: Artist, Parents Have Responsibility.” Little Falls Daily Transcript, 10 March 1969, Page 5.
On March 9, 1969, Marian Anderson, world famous singer and American icon, gave a speech at the Little Falls Junior High School in Little Falls, Minnesota. Marian had come to Little Falls at the invitation of Laura Jane Musser, a local philanthropist and champion of culture. Laura Jane (1916-1989), the daughter of Richard Drew and Sarah Walker Musser, was a talented musician herself and considered Marian a friend. According to the March 10, 1969, article in the Little Falls Daily Transcript documenting the event (“Marian Anderson Tells Audience: Artist, Parents Have Responsibility”), Marian was warmly welcomed and received standing ovations both before and after her speech. Though attended by dignitaries from across the state, including then Minnesota Governor Harold LeVander, the event was not considered front page news and was placed on page five.
Marian Anderson had had a remarkable career by the time she came to Little Falls, having performed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Memorial, Metropolitan Opera House, and the White House as well as having toured across the world. Born in Pennsylvania in 1897, she had quickly become an accomplished singer who was widely known for her extraordinary voice. Throughout her career, Anderson was described as a warm and generous person who cared deeply for people, especially children. Her strong belief in education as the key to ending social and racial inequality may have played a part in her acceptance of Laura Jane’s invitation to speak in Little Falls. Following her official retirement from performing in 1965 until her death in 1993, Marian devoted much of her time to this cause, serving on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations throughout the country and spreading the word about the importance of art and culture in a changing world. As Governor LeVander stated in his introduction to her speech in Little Falls:
In addition to bringing joy and inspiration to more than seven million persons who have heard her sing…now after her retirement she has brought inspiration and understanding through service to the United Nations, and is now promoting better understanding between races and between nations.