This morning, I received an e-mail from a very old friend, whom I recently became reacquainted with, containing some simple instructions:
“Google these three words and hear what happens: Marian Anderson Primrose.”
What I heard was this:
Not a bad way to start off a cold, gloomy Friday morning!
And, as February is Black History Month in America, it got me thinking about the too-often forgotten role that Marian Anderson played in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1955, Anderson became the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera, paving the way for Leontyne Price who made her Met debut in 1961.
But Anderson’s heroism was established long before that. In 1939, Marian Anderson was denied permission by the Daughters of the American Revolution to perform before an integrated audience at their venue, Constitution Hall, where black audience members were required to sit in the back. Anderson was also denied the use of a public school auditorium for the concert.
In response to the controversy, President Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, worked with the NAACP to arrange a concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Marian Anderson sang on Easter Sunday for an integrated crowd of over 75,000. The concert was also nationally broadcast over the radio.