This Day in History: 1939-04-09

Marian Anderson gives a concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC before a crowd of 75,000 people in attendance and millions more listening over the radio. The greatest opera singer of her day, lauded by European nobility and called by great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini a voice heard “once in a hundred years,”Anderson had previously been denied rental of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall and all the local public school auditoriums owing to their whites-only policies. Sixteen years after the Lincoln Memorial concert, Ms. Anderson performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1955, becoming the first Black artist to do so. Throughout her career, Ms. Anderson continued to perform all over the world while also lending her talent to the struggle against racial injustice. The granddaughter of Black people once enslaved in Virginia, she sang at the March on Washington in 1963, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom that same year. Learn more.