It's 1937, and Marian Anderson is one of the most famous singers in America. But after she gives a performance for an all-white audience, she learns that the nearby hotel is closed to African Americans. She doesn't know where she'll stay for the night.
Until the famous scientist Albert Einstein invites her to stay at his house. Marian, who endures constant discrimination as a Black performer, learns that Albert faced prejudice as a Jew in Germany. She discovers their shared passion for music―and their shared hopes for a more just world.
"The story of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s denial of Constitution Hall to African-American contralto Marian Anderson in 1939 has been told many times. Less well-known is the story of Anderson’s 1937 concert at McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey. Though her performance met with critical accolades, Anderson was denied a room at the Nassau Inn because of her race. The Singer and the Scientist, by Lisa Rose and illustrator Isabel Muñoz, tells of the friendship that developed between Anderson and the scientist who stepped into the breach that evening in Princeton ― none other than Albert Einstein. The spare narrative and boldly-colored digital art mesh perfectly to convey the subtle ways in which Jim Crow was manifest even in America’s north at that time. The book opens onto Anderson’s pre-concert jitters. As 'Marian’s heart did its nervous thump, thump, thumpity-thump,' we see her parting the curtain to peek out at the expectant all-white audience. Did she notice that man with 'wild white hair,' we wonder? He certainly stands out in his casual pants and vest, in marked contrast to the well-groomed man next to him in a neatly pressed suit. Einstein sits, legs splayed, toes angled upward ― so caught up in the music that '[h]is foot tapped perfectly to the rhythm of her song.' The concert itself was a triumph, but while Anderson 'wanted only to take her shoes off and rest,' the theater owner refused to book her a room at the whites-only Nassau Inn. As the book’s illustrations vividly show, even the concert-goers averted their gazes from Marian Anderson. All but one ― Albert Einstein, who approached her, lavishly praised her singing, and invited her to spend the night at his home. Over coffee and cake, they spoke of their shared love of classical music. Then Einstein shared his experiences in Nazi Germany. He described how the Nazis had burned Jewish properties (dramatically evoked in illustrations of books engulfed in flames). It was this memory that sensitized the great scientist to the racial discrimination he observed in America. Many young people have grown up unaware of the intense cooperation between Jews and African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. Without self-consciousness, The Singer and the Scientist recreates a time when these two communities worked together towards common goals. A helpful Author’s Note gives further background on Einstein’s and Anderson’s involvement in human rights." ― Marian Grann, retired teacher, co-author (with Janet Willen) of Five Thousand Years of Slavery and Speak a Word for Freedom: Women Against Slavery, (Tundra), Toronto, Canada, AJL Newsletter
About the Author
Lisa Rose lives near Detroit, Michigan. She likes to swim, practice yoga, and eat ice cream, but not at the same time. Her previous books include Shmulik Paints the Town.Isabel Muñoz is an artist and a children's book illustrator. She is a Fine Arts graduate from Universidad Complutense of Madrid, Spain. Isabel works from a tiny colorful studio in the north of Spain.