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#ProudAmerican : Marian Anderson and the DAR



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.


Anderson sings before the DAR in 1943


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  1. There is a common historical mistake that is repeated here to the damage of the reputation of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The DAR refused permission for Anderson to perform in their hall because segregation was legal in the District of Columbia in 1939 and the DAR had no choice but to refuse or they would violate DC law. Anderson had also been refused permission by the DC school board for a venue under their control for the same reason. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes was from Chicago and he had been a Republican and a Bull Moose before he joined the FDR Administration. Ickes had an opinion from the Attorney General that he could ignore the DC segregation law because the Lincoln Memorial was federal property and not under the laws of D.C. Ickes later resigned after FDR died in protest over what he saw as corruption in the Truman Administration. His son Harold Ickes, Jr. was Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s and still practices law today in DC.