Thursday, April 09, 2015

April 9, 1939 - Marian Anderson's act of conviction

Seventy-six years ago today, Marian Anderson sung before an audience of 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial because the Daughter's of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to allow her to sing in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.  Howard University had invited her to sign; because they didn't have a venue large enough to hold the crowd they anticipated, they asked for the use of Constitution Hall which was denied because of a policy that only allowed whites entry. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt immediately resigned from her DAR membership and helped to move the much-anticipated concert to the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial. While Anderson did not see herself as an activist for civil rights, her courage in proceeding with the concert in 1939 turned into what many recognize as the first-ever public protest concert in American history. Acting on principle turned a concert that would have been great into something even greater when both the music and message reached so many hearts. As Jessye Norman noted (in her memoir, Stand Up Straight and Sing) in reference to Marion Anderson, "When I think about how, despite the pervasive prejudice she experienced, she did not allow hatred to dampen the song within, I can only be grateful." Those who act on conviction should not allow resistance in any form to dampen the song within.

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