Anderson was an African-American contralto and one of the most celebrated opera singers of the 20th century, as stated by the Hartford Courant. She became a key figure in the struggle for African-American artists to overcome racial prejudice in the U.S. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. But with the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. She also was the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 7, 1955. Anderson was born in Philadelphia and later made her home in Danbury.