Form and Content
In her autobiography, My Lord, What a Morning, contralto Marian Anderson discusses her travails and triumphs as she grew into one of the world’s memorable performers. Each chapter indicates a specific focus in her life. The autobiography does not contain an index; however, the chapter titles provide a sufficient guide. Although spanning more than fifty years, the book progresses evenly. It traces Anderson’s artistic beginnings in Philadelphia; follows with her successful tours of Europe, Scandinavia, and the Soviet Union; and concludes with her triumphant rise as a Metropolitan Opera star in both Philadelphia and New York City.
My Lord, What a Morning also contains several glossy photographs of Anderson’s life, showing her on tour or at a particular concert. One photograph depicts the famous concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, at the Lincoln Memorial. Another shows her in conversation with her mother, a woman who quietly encouraged and influenced Anderson to make her own choices and then work to accomplish them. Placed together early in the book, these pictures not only pique the reader’s interest but also pinpoint and organize memorable occasions that are discussed later.
Never forgetting her close family ties, Anderson centers her account largely on her training and experiences on and off the stage. She recounts her early love of music, the countless Sundays that she sang in the Union Baptist Church in Philadelphia, where she grew up, and her musical engagements.
The reader never encounters numerous, interruptive dates; Anderson’s chronological account moves with ease and grace as her story unfolds. Her narrative voice seldom judges those who harshly rejected her for her color, refusing to note her talent, ability, or individuality. Serious but with touches of shy humor, Anderson delineates her struggles and achievements, thus showing her tenacity and strength. Through her readable style, her quiet and humble gratitude for her vocal gift becomes instantly clear and enables the reader to appreciate Anderson and her approach to life.
Anderson devotes much space to her tours, often describing in detail how she and her companions passed the long hours between different cities and countries. She tells many anecdotes about her travels that young readers would find interesting. Even after being acclaimed as a world artist, she maintained a healthy attitude devoid of pretension.