Danbury to honor Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson was many things – a superb contralto, a civil rights pioneer and a Danbury resident. Now the city is leading an effort to create a mural to honor a woman who has meant so much to American culture and history.

Anderson (1897-1993) not only forged an international career in classical music at a time when there were unfortunately few mainstream opportunities for African-Americans. She became a cause cèlébre when the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to allow her to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.  With the urging of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who resigned from the organization in protest, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes arranged for Anderson to perform an open-air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939.

More than 75,000 people of every race who gathered on the National Mall that day – along with millions more listening at home – were moved by the crystalline sounds of Anderson’s voice as she began with “My Country’Tis of Thee.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAONYTMf2pk It would become a seminal movement in the civil rights struggle, and the woman who was rebuffed by the DAR would go on to sing at the inaugurations of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.

Now the city of Danbury, led by Mayor Mark Boughton, and Savings Bank of Danbury, led by President and CEO Martin G. Morgado, are joining forces to create a mural tribute on the wall behind the Kennedy Park Fountain on Main Street.

“The bank is pleased to partner with Mayor Boughton’s office to fund the creation of this mural,” says Morgado,  citing Anderson’s courage and her support of the arts and civil rights in Danbury. “It’s a great investment in our community. Banks can be instrumental in helping a community preserve its past so that generations to come will enjoy our rich history.”

For the mural project, local artists will be invited to submit renderings and quotes that feature Marian Anderson’s achievements and life in the city. The Danbury Museum & Historical Society will offer artists entrée to its collection of Marian Anderson’s personal belongings, including gowns she sewed herself for several performances, and her studio, which sits on the Danbury Museum property.

This is not the first time the bank has stepped in to support the city’s artistic history. It’s helping to rehabilitate the home of composer Charles Ives, now part of the Danbury Museum. When completed, Morgado says, visitors will be able to tour a place that dates from 1780, just as the Revolutionary War was ending.

“This project is especially significant for the bank, as it was the first home of Savings Bank of Danbury when the bank opened its doors in 1849,” Morgado says. “The home offers an interesting window into what life was like in the later part of the 1800s and the early 1900s in Danbury.”

For Morgado and the bank, it’s a reminder that while we don’t live in the past, we live with it.

“In our communities throughout the region, there are a number of chances for banks and businesses to step up and help revitalize our sense of community through the preservation of our historical buildings and the honoring of historical figures.

“There is no shortage of community needs, as we all know. Yet, in our desire to see life in our communities thrive, it’s important to remember that our past is part of our present – and our future. We are looking forward to seeing our region continue its quest to honor its past. Learning more about our past can help us understand and appreciate the present and prepare for the future.”

 For more, visit http://sbdanbury.com.

Georgette Gouveia

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