Today is the anniversary of Marian Anderson’s birth in 1897. You may remember that James DePreist, musician and poet, was her nephew. Some might even remember that she was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ms. Anderson died on April 8, 1993.
This morning I watched and listened to a number of YouTube videos. Most focused on Anderson’s amazing voice. After listening to more than one recording of “They Crucified My Lord,” I chose the one you see above. It isn’t dressed up, and we don’t hear or see the audience. Instead, we’re invited to hear and feel the full weight of Anderson’s interpretation. One tragic note at a time.
I hear connections between Anderson’s interpretation of this song and James Cone’s book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Not just in the music itself, but in her subdued yet determined delivery of the song. Often followed by silence from the audience.
I wonder. How many white people felt pierced in their hearts, as I do now, when they heard and saw her interpretation of it? We’ll never know. However, the fact that this song was often met with silence instead of enthusiastic hand-clapping suggests the message was clear to all.
Jesus of Nazareth didn’t say a ‘mumbling word’ and was known to be innocent of charges brought against him. It follows that we dare not applaud this travesty (lynching in its changing costumes) that continues to haunt us in the USA.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 February 2021
Image and song thanks to YouTube.com