On Easter Sunday in 1939 a concert was held at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. The key performer at the concert was Marian Anderson, Anderson had been denied permission to sing to an integrated audience at a recent perfomance organised by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) at Constitution Hall.
The refusal to allow Anderson to sing at Constitution Hall caused great anger in the African American community and amongst thousands of DAR’s own members including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who resigned from the organisation. She also sent a letter to DAR saying:
“I am in complete disagreement with the attitude taken in refusing Constitution Hall to a great artist … You had an opportunity to lead in an enlightened way and it seems to me that your organization has failed.”
The concert was put together by President Roosevelt, Walter White the executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Anderson’s manager Sol Hurok. Anderson was accompanied in her performance with pianist Kosti Vehanen who had a fruitful partnership together.
The concert took place Easter Sunday the 9th of April, and began with a rendition of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”. The concert attracted over 75,000 people of all races and was heard by millions on national radio.
Two months after the concert Marian Anderson was presented the 1939 Spingarn Medal for distinguished achievement by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.