Washington, D.C. 1939. Concert program, measuring 9 x 6 inches, printed on a doubled sheet: . Lightest soiling, horizontal crease.
Original program from contralto Marian Anderson’s landmark 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial. The first Black member of the Metropolitan Opera, Anderson was barred from singing at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution, a racist snub that prompted first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to resign her DAR membership: “You had an opportunity to lead in an enlightened way and it seems to me that your organization has failed.” In collaboration with Howard University and a group of prominent supporters, Roosevelt arranged for Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial, an Easter Sunday concert attended by 75,000 spectators of all races, and broadcast to millions more. Anderson sang a thoughtfully chosen series of songs, from “America” to Schubert’s “Ave Maria” to “Gospel Train,” headlining a day of celebration and protest that foreshadowed the March on Washington, in the same spot, decades later. The program opens with the first line of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and includes a comprehensive list of sponsors: members of the Supreme Court and Franklin Roosevelt’s cabinet, New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia, civil rights leaders Mary McLeod Bethune and Walter White, private citizens including Tallulah Bankhead, Katherine Hepburn, and Leopold Stokowski. A scarce and powerful artifact of a milestone in American civil rights history.