Marian Anderson remembered for Lincoln Memorial Easter performance

    A Philadelphia native who once sang on the streets for nickels and dimes is being remembered for a concert she gave 70 years ago. On Easter Sunday 1939, Marian Anderson performed for a crowd of at least 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The historic concert is considered by many to have been a pivotal moment in American race relations.

    A Philadelphia native who once sang on the streets for nickels and dimes is being remembered for a concert she gave 70 years ago. On Easter Sunday 1939, Marian Anderson performed for a crowd of at least 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The historic concert is considered by many to have been a pivotal moment in American race relations.

    Marian Anderson was said to have “the voice of the century.”

    (Scroll down for audio version of this story, which includes sample of Marian Anderson singing My Country ‘Tis of Thee)

    Even with that voice, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let Anderson sing in Constitution Hall because of the color of her skin.

    Historian Raymond Arsenault says the snub rallied many people who’d never really spoken out before to band together to find somewhere for Anderson to sing.

    Arsenault: It seemed so gratuitous, such an insult.  She’d been able to sing in all the capitals of Europe but not in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.  And so this inspired kind of an interracial, nascent civil rights struggle.

    First lady Eleanor Roosevelt dropped her membership in the DAR and helped arrange the emotional and historic open air concert.

    More information:
    A commemorative concert will be held at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday

    Video of Anderson’s performance in 1939

    Listen:
    Click on the play button below or right click on this link and choose “Save Target As” to download.

    [audio: arts20090412singer.mp3]

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