WASHINGTON – "Genius draws no color lines," then-Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes said as he introduced opera singer Marian Anderson to a waiting crowd at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939.
Ms. Anderson's performance at the Lincoln Memorial was at the urging of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt after Anderson had been denied the right to perform at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution because of her color.
"My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee we sing," Ms. Anderson sang.
The situation caused an immediate backlash and the DAR recognized the error of their ways.
As the ladies tell it now on their website:
The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution deeply regrets that Marian Anderson was not given the opportunity to perform her 1939 Easter concert in Constitution Hall, but today we join all Americans in grateful recognition that her historic performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was a pivotal point in the struggle for racial equality.
Ms. Anderson’s legendary concert will always be remembered as a milestone in the Civil Rights movement. The beauty of her voice, amplified by her courage and grace, brought attention to the eloquence of the many voices urging our nation to overcome prejudice and intolerance. It sparked change not just in the DAR but in all of America.
Our organization truly wishes that history could be re-written, but knowing that it cannot, we are proud to note that DAR has learned from the past.
With grace and dignity, Ms. Anderson subsequently appeared several times at the DAR's Constitution Hall and before her death was awarded the organization's Centennial Medallion in 1992.