On this day: February 27, 1897
Opera singer Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Anderson was entered in the New York Philharmonic Competition at age 17 by her music teacher and placed first over 299 other singers. Anderson became an important figure in the struggle for black artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States during the mid-twentieth century.
In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. The incident placed Anderson into the spotlight of the international community on a level unusual for a classical musician. With the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Anderson sang before a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions. Anderson continued to break barriers for black artists in the United States, becoming the first African American, to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 7, 1955.