Heritage Auctions is offering a stunning necklace once owned and worn by legendary 20thcentury African-American musician and social activist Marian Anderson.
The beautiful baroque Natural South Sea Pearl, Diamond and White Gold Necklace (estimate: $5,000-7,000) will be part of Heritage Auctions’ May 3 Spring Fine Jewelry Auction.
Marian Anderson, a legendary contralto, performed a wide range of music from opera to spirituals. She is best known, however, as one of the visible figures in the civil rights movement. Black artists often met resistance when seeking performance venues. In 1939, Anderson was denied the opportunity to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., which was owned by the Daughters of the Revolution. At the time, their policy only represented white performers on stage.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was so upset by the decision, she resigned as a member of the organization in protest. Roosevelt and her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, along with Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), encouraged Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes to arrange a free open-air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for Easter Sunday. Anderson made history on April 9, 1939, and performed an event later recognized as the Freedom Concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before a crowd estimated at 75,000.
Anderson performed at Constitution Hall, at the invitation of the Daughters of the Revolution, in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. In 1961, she performed the national anthem at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Two years later, Kennedy honored the singer, who performed several times at New York’s Carnegie Hall, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 1991, the music world honored her with a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Anderson’s stature as a civil rights icon is showcased in the PBS Master series documentary, Marian Anderson: The Whole Word In Her Hands.
Anderson is shown wearing the offered necklace in the photo for her album titled Pearl, which was released in 1992 (a year before her death) and included some of her earliest recordings.
A percentage of sale proceeds will benefit the Marian Anderson Historical Society, whose website describes the organization as “a major fixture that supports young Artists, classical & opera singers, instrumentalists, visual artists & more” who are ambassadors of Anderson’s musical legacy.
For images and information on all lots in the auction, visit HA.com/5518.
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