29 Black Music Milestones: Marian Anderson Performs at the Lincoln Memorial
Before Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke the words to his celebrated "I Have A Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, world famous contralto Marian Anderson lived out her own dream on those famous Washington D.C. steps on April 9, 1939.
The invitation to perform in front of the audience of 75,000 people (in addition to millions of radio listeners) came directly from the Secretary of the Interior, Harold L. Ickes, who proclaimed Anderson to be a "genuis" who "draws no color line." It was a profound statement, considering that earlier that year, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in D.C.'s Constitution Hall because of her race.
Anderson's performance on that Easter Sunday came to be known as a prelude to the Civil Rights movement, and she continued to break barriers for black artists in the United States, eventually becoming the first black person to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.