Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson and the DAR

The Daughters of the American Revolution proudly practices a non-discrimination policy and encourages and celebrates diversity in our organization. However, in 1939, opera singer Marian Anderson was denied the opportunity to perform in DAR Constitution Hall because of her race. She subsequently performed an historic concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 75,000 people. Afterwards, the DAR recognized the need for change and Marian Anderson sang at Constitution Hall on a number of occasions. This page provides information on the relationship between Marian Anderson and the DAR, and our organization's on-going efforts to honor her memory.

DAR Marian Anderson Statement

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.

DAR welcomed Marian Anderson to Constitution Hall on a number of occasions soon after 1939, including a benefit concert for war relief in 1943. It is also meaningful to us that this notable American chose Constitution Hall as the place where she would launch her farewell American tour in 1964.

In 2005, we were honored to host at our national headquarters the dedication ceremony of the Marian Anderson commemorative stamp at the invitation of the United States Postal Service and Ms. Anderson’s family. In 2009, on the 70th anniversary of Ms. Anderson’s Lincoln Memorial concert, DAR joined with the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission in hosting a special reception at our headquarters following a Marian Anderson tribute concert and naturalization ceremony.

The Daughters of the American Revolution celebrates the life, the talent and the legacy of Marian Anderson. America is a better place because of her dreams and her sacrifices. As a nation, we can be grateful that she opened so many doors for all those who follow; and, as an organization, the DAR is genuinely pleased to pay tribute to her memory.

Anderson's Performances at DAR Constitution Hall

Marian Anderson performed at Constitution Hall on numerous occasions, some of which are listed below:

  • September 1942 – the DAR invited Marian Anderson to perform at Constitution Hall for a series of benefit concerts to aid the war relief. Marian Anderson performed at the first of these concerts in January 1943.

Marian Anderson onstage at Constitution Hall in 1943.
(Marie Hansen/Time and LIFE Pictures/Getty Images)
  • March 14, 1953 – Marian Anderson sang to an unsegregated audience in Constitution Hall as part of the American University concert series
  • April 1, 1956 – Marian Anderson performs in Constitution Hall
  • October 24, 1964 – Marian Anderson begins her farewell American tour in Constitution Hall
  • April 20, 1992 – At the opening night ceremonies of the DAR annual convention, the DAR awarded Marian Anderson the Centennial Medallion, which honors women who gave outstanding service to the nation. Due to health reasons, Miss Anderson was unable to attend the ceremony, so the medallion and certificate were delivered to her at her home.
Commemorative Stamp Ceremony

On January 27, 2005, at the invitation of the U.S. Postal Service and the family of Marian Anderson, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution co-hosted the unveiling of a commemorative United States postage stamp honoring the operatic and concert star at the Society’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

For many in the audience, the ceremony represented a touching time of healing and at last hopefully a happy ending to a painful chapter in history.

Marian Anderson’s nephew James DePriest,
Deputy Postmaster General John Nolan,
and DAR President General Presley Wagoner
unveil the Marian Anderson commemorative stamp
at a ceremony hosted at DAR Headquarters.

The Marian Anderson commemorative stamp ceremony was filled with touching speeches, performances by renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and a reception for the guests. View video clips and a photo slideshow of the ceremony along with the DAR welcome remarks and a sidebar article about the ceremony from the DAR book American Treasure.

Clips from Marian Anderson Commemorative Stamp Ceremony at DAR Headquarters:

DAR President General's Remarks from Commemorative Stamp Ceremony:

Marian Anderson's Nephew's Remarks from Commemorative Stamp Ceremony:

DAR Members Reflect on the Impact of Marian Anderson

70th Anniversary Tribute Concert
Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves performs on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the Marian Anderson Tribute Concert.

The DAR was truly honored to celebrate Marian Anderson on the 70th anniversary of her historic concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. On April 12, 2009, the DAR joined with the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and others in paying tribute to Marian Anderson and the momentous 1939 event in a concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

The concert featured musical performances by Denyce Graves, Sweet Honey in the Rock and the Chicago Children’s Choir, and concluded with a naturalization ceremony. DAR was delighted to host a reception at its National Headquarters for those involved with the tribute concert and the newly naturalized citizens. We thank the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission for allowing us the opportunity to join in the celebration of this important event.

President General Linda Gist Calvin addresses guests at the reception at DAR Headquarters.

Media Coverage:

Bibliography and Book Excerpts

A number of historians have researched the events leading up to and following Marian Anderson's 1939 concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. These publications provide an in-depth telling of those events and give a glimpse of the relationship between Anderson and the DAR following the events.

Allan Keiler.  Marian Anderson: A Singer’s Journey. Scribner: 2000.

“In late September 1942, a few days before the start of her annual tour, Anderson received an invitation from the DAR to appear in Constitution Hall…” (Keiler, pp. 234-239

“On March 14, 1953, as part of the American University concert series, Anderson sang to an unsegregated audience in Constitution Hall. ‘May I say that when I finally walked into Constitution Hall and sang from its stage I had no feeling different from what I have in other halls. There was no sense of triumph. I felt it was a beautiful concert hall, and I was happy to sing in it.’” (Keiler, pp. 259-260)

"At a news conference, Anderson and her manager announced plans for her to retire from the concert stage after a world tour that would be launched at Constitution Hall in 1964. There were the inevitable questions from the press about Anderson’s feelings toward the DAR. ‘I forgave the DAR many years ago. You lose a lot of time hating people,’ she told the reporters.” (Keiler, p. 312)

Patrick Hayes. “White Artists Only: Fifty Years Ago Marian Anderson Sang at the Lincoln Memorial, and All Eyes Were on Washington.” Washingtonian, April 1989.

“The sadness in this story lies in the embarrassment to the city of Washington and to all of its citizens who were trapped in the customs of the time. The DAR continues as a patriotic organization and as a source of historical information, and I believe that the members of today, 50 years after the turmoil of 1939, need not be held accountable for the deeds of long ago.” (Hayes, p. 103)