The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman (Unit 9)


Google Images


Freedman, Russell. The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights. Clarion Books: New York, 2004.

Plot Summary: 

This book is about the incredible Marian Anderson. She was a famed singer, adored throughout the US and Europe. However, because of the color of her skin, she was denied the right to perform at the Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. by the Daughters of the American Revolution. This sparked outrage, and an estimated 75,000 people stood outside the Lincoln Memorial to hear Marian Anderson sing. Without knowing it, she became front and center of the civil rights movement and broke racial barriers. This book is about her life and her accomplishments.

Critical Analysis:

This book was excellent. I loved learning about someone I’d never heard of before. It’s a shame this is a first time I’m hearing of her, since she made such a difference in the world of music for African Americans. The book begins beautifully, telling of the performance at the Lincoln Memorial. Beginning in chapter two and extending through the rest of the book, we learn about her life and career, and what lead to her involvement in the civil rights movement. Accompanied by beautiful black and white photographs, this is a beautifully written and inspiring book.

The writing is strong and beautiful. Freedman uses very eloquent descriptions that suck the reader in and transports you to another place and time.

The only weakness that I would give this book is its length, but that’s not really a weakness, just personal preference on the child reading the book. Some like them long, others like them short. Most children don’t like their informational books to be dense with text.

All in all, this was a fantastic book that would be great to use for any Black History Month, African American studies, or any music appreciation class.

Review Excerpt:

Received the John Newbery and the Sibert Medals in 2005.

From Kirkus Review:

“a fully realized portrait of a musical artist and her times…an outstanding, handsome biography. Freedman at his best.”

From Booklist:

“In his signature prose, plain yet eloquent. Freedman tells Anderson’s triumphant story . . . Older readers and adults will want this too.”

From School Library Journal:

“Numerous archival photographs, thorough chapter notes, a selected bibliography of works for both adult and younger readers, and a selected discography of currently available Anderson CDs are included. This inspiring work once again demonstrates Freedman’s talent for showing how a person’s life is molded by its historical and cultural context. Readers of Pam Muñoz Ryan’s When Marian Sang (Scholastic, 2002) will appreciate this lengthier account of Anderson’s life, as will all readers of biography, U.S. history, and musical history.”


Other Biographies:

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin ISBN 9780547248295

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph became the Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull ISBN 9780152020989

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Piinkey ISBN 9780786814206

Other books by Russell Freedman:

Lincoln: A Photobiography ISBN 9780395518489

Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery ISBN 9780395845202

Children of the Great Depression ISBN 9780618446308


Published by

Adrinna Davis

Hello there! Not much to me, I'm just your average author and librarian who is obsessed with Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Merlin, Divergent, ect... who is married with two kids. :) And now blogger. I love children's lit and want to share with you all the amazing books I find!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s