For Immediate Release
DAR Launches Archival Project to Celebrate the 80th Anniversary of Marian Anderson’s Lincoln Memorial Concert
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In commemoration of the 80th anniversary of Marian Anderson’s historic Lincoln Memorial concert, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution is launching a project to create a subject guide on documents related to Marian Anderson found within the NSDAR Archives. The goal is to create a lasting educational resource that can contribute to the ongoing preservation and study of the events and attitudes surrounding this time in the United States history.
Marian Anderson’s April 9, 1939 concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 75,000 people was prompted by her not being allowed to sing in DAR Constitution Hall due to a policy at that time that allowed only white artists to perform in the auditorium. The events and publicity surrounding the concert inspired change within the National Society as well as throughout the country and became a milestone in the fight for racial equality. The DAR joins with the nation in celebrating this anniversary by launching an archival project to provide more educational material on the subject.
A recent donation of new historical materials to the NSDAR Archives facilitated the initiation of this new project. Sarah Robert, who served as the DAR President General from 1938-1941, kept an abundance of her personal and professional papers. This vast collection was recently donated to the DAR by Mrs. Robert’s son. A DAR archivist has been organizing the collection to gain an understanding of the holdings. It was discovered that Mrs. Robert had saved many significant documents and correspondence related to the 1939 denial of Marian Anderson to perform in DAR Constitution Hall and the subsequent public controversy leading to the Lincoln Memorial concert.
The papers in this collection pertaining to Marian Anderson – including unique material never before seen by DAR archivists – provide an incredible glimpse into the opinions and issues that made the events of 1939 so pivotal. DAR archivists quickly identified what a treasure the DAR had received from the acquisition of these primary source materials almost 80 years after the historical events of 1939; records that many assumed had not been kept. In recognizing the educational opportunity the collection presented due to the significance of Marian Anderson’s role in the nation’s history, the DAR determined it would be important to make the documents publicly available for research. In order to allow an adequate amount of time to arrange and describe the collection in order to make accessible to researchers, the subject guide will begin to be developed with a goal of being made available to researchers in the coming years.
“The DAR will never be able to change the role it played in the story of Marian Anderson’s Lincoln Memorial concert. However, we find ourselves continually grateful for the opportunity these events created for our organization to change and grow, as it also helped our nation address important issues related to racial discrimination and segregation,” said DAR President General Ann Dillon. “As an organization committed to historic preservation, education and patriotism, the DAR has a responsibility to contribute to the preservation, stewardship and education of Marian Anderson’s legacy. With this recently discovered collection from Sarah Robert’s personal files, we hope to develop an educational resource that complements and expands upon other historical research material related to the 1939 concert.”
As part of the commemoration and in conjunction with the launch of the DAR Archives project, an online exhibit has been created that features a sampling of some of the primary source records found within the DAR’s various collections including many new documents uncovered in recent months during the processing of the Sarah Robert Papers. The DAR is also continuing to expand and enhance the resources page in the Marian Anderson section on the DAR Website to promote further education on the events surrounding the concert. To round out the celebration on the day of the anniversary, the DAR will welcome 50 first and second graders from a Washington, D.C. elementary school to DAR Constitution Hall for a program on Marian Anderson. The students will celebrate the change Marian Anderson inspired throughout America by singing My Country Tis of Thee on the stage of Constitution Hall.
For more information on the DAR’s efforts to celebrate the life and legacy of Marian Anderson, visit www.dar.org/MarianAnderson.
The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890 to promote historic preservation, education and patriotism. Any woman 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution is eligible for membership. With more than 185,000 members in approximately 3,000 chapters worldwide, DAR is one of the world's largest and most active service organizations. Encompassing an entire downtown city block, DAR National Headquarters houses one of the nation’s premier genealogical libraries, one of the foremost collections of pre-industrial American decorative arts, Washington, D.C.’s largest concert hall, and an extensive collection of early American manuscripts and imprints. To learn more about the work of today's DAR, visit www.dar.org.