Marian Anderson stepped up to a microphone placed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and stared out at a crowd of more than 75,000 people. She had been barred from performing at Constitutional Hall, but thanks to clever advocacy by Walter White of the NAACP and the aid of high-powered allies like Eleanor Roosevelt, the concert was now set to make history.
On Easter Sunday, 1939, contralto Marian Anderson stepped up to a microphone in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Inscribed on the walls of the monument behind her were the words “all men are created equal.” Barred from performing in Constitution Hall because of her race, Anderson would sing for the American people in the open air. Hailed as a voice that “comes around once in a hundred years” by maestros in Europe and widely celebrated by both white and black audiences at home, her fame hadn’t been enough to spare her from the indignities and outright violence of racism and segregation. Voice of Freedom interweaves Anderson’s rich life story with this landmark moment.
Marian Anderson Lincoln Memorial Concert- Voice of Freedom American Experience PBS
She performed seven songs for the assembled crowd and the audience listening live over the radio. It was a mix of American Spirituals and classical repertoire: “America,” “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” “Ave Maria,” “Gospel Train,” “My Soul Is Anchored in the Lord,” “O mio Fernando” and “Trampin’.”