Racial Segregation and Black Singers

What black singer was denied an opportunity to perform before the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), resulting in embarrassment for the nation?

Marian Anderson (1897–1993), one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated singers, was the first black to sing a principal role with the Metropolitan Opera. She made her debut as Ulrica in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera on January 7, 1955, and remained with the opera for seven performances. In October 1930 Anderson received critical acclaim for her concert at the Bach Saal in Berlin and from there embarked on an extensive tour of Europe. She made national news in 1939 when the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to allow her to appear at their Constitution Hall. On Easter Sunday of that year, she gave what is perhaps her most remarkable concert—singing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after having been barred from appearing at Constitution Hall because of her race. Anderson continued to tour until her farewell trip in the 1964–1965 season. She established scholarships to support and encourage other singers who had to endure and eventually break the racist barrier that permeated America. Anderson was a Philadelphia native, who demonstrated her vocal talents as a young choir girl and who at the age of nineteen began studying with Giuseppe Boghetti.


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