Denied a Stage, Given a Nation

The song of truth will find its echo in those who listen.

By Robert Petterson, author of The One Year Book of Amazing Stories

She was born with the voice of an angel. Her church choir called the six-year-old prodigy Baby Contralto. But her family lived on the poor side of town, and her hard-working daddy barely eked out a living. He did manage to scrape together enough to purchase a second-hand piano, but there was nothing left over for lessons. So his child prodigy trained herself.

When she was twelve, her daddy died, leaving her family penniless. By now Baby Contralto was able to sing soprano, alto, tenor, or bass. The world should be glad that her church choir, made up of poor folk, scraped together $500 to pay for the services of a well-known voice teacher.

Not long after, the New York Philharmonic Society discovered Baby Contralto. After performing at Carnegie Hall, she took Europe by storm. By the 1930s she was famous throughout Europe and the United States. Famed conductor Arturo Toscanini said that a voice like hers comes along once in a century. After she performed at the White House, her manager tried to book her at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. But the owners of this iconic hall, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), refused to allow the world’s greatest contralto to sing there.

Their refusal makes no sense, unless you know Baby Contralto’s given name, Marian Anderson. Although she sang before European royalty and US presidents, she was not even allowed to stay in most American hotels. The DAR also had a rule that only white artists could perform on their stage. People of color, like Marian Anderson, were restricted to the balcony.

So First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt arranged a concert at the Lincoln Memorial. On a cold Easter day in 1939, the world’s greatest contralto sang before seventy-five thousand people on the Mall and to a nationwide radio audience. The secretary of the interior introduced her with these words: “Genius, like justice, is blind. Genius draws no color lines.”

One of the millions glued to their radios that day was a ten-year-old boy in Atlanta. Martin would later say that Ms. Anderson’s heroic concert inspired his dream to change America. Twenty-four years later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the same steps at the Lincoln Memorial. In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he quoted lyrics from Baby Contralto’s first song that day: “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty . . . Let freedom ring!” Though Marian Anderson would become a legendary diva, win the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, she was most proud of that concert at the Lincoln Memorial and how it inspired a ten-year-old boy to change the world.

Sometimes the world tries to shut up the voice that God has given us. But there are truths that must be sung to the heavens. You may feel like a solitary little bird warbling your song into the face of a howling wind. But others are listening. So remember this:

The song of truth will find its echo in those who listen.

The Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Zephaniah 3:17

The One Year Book of Amazing Stories: 365 Days of Seeing God’s Hand in Unlikely Places by Robert Petterson

You wouldn’t believe it, but . . .

James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, grew up mute. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Albert Einstein was bullied mercilessly in school. Beethoven’s mom almost aborted him.

Life takes the strangest sharp turns—and sometimes, U-turns. Robert Petterson—popular speaker, storyteller, and author—has been a student for his entire life of what God is teaching us through those real-life U-turns. In this book, he compiles 365 amazing stories that teach lessons you won’t easily forget. Each entry is written in the rest-of-the-story style popularized by Paul Harvey. With The One Year Book of Amazing Stories, you’ll marvel at how God has used the lives of these ordinary people to change the course of human history.

Learn more HERE>>


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