DOINews: NPS: Commemoration Held of Marian Anderson Concert

Last edited 09/05/2019
Sky Jabali-Rainey as Marion Anderson
Fourth-grader Sky Jabali-Rainey impresses the audience with her first-person presentation as Marian Anderson. (Seated at right, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.) Photo by Tami Heilemann, DOI Office of Communications. View additional photos here.

The National Mall and Memorial Parks commemorated the 75th anniversary of Marian Anderson's historic Easter Sunday concert with a ceremony on Wednesday, April 9, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Anderson performed in 1939.

In partnership with the Washington Performing Arts Society, the program focused on engaging youth with the Anderson story and the national parks. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell took part in the commemorative event.

Superintendent Bob Vogel welcomed the audience after a performance by the Washington Performing Arts Society's Children of the Gospel Choir. Students from a Washington, D.C. area high school presented a short history of Anderson's concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

The students already had a connection to the National Park Service, as part of the National Park Foundation's Park Stewards program. Focusing on service learning projects in national parks, they have formed a club called PITCH, an acronym for "Parks are Ideal for Teaching Cool History."

Following an audio clip of former Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes introducing Anderson and her performance of “My Country, “Tis of Thee” – also known as “America” – the current secretary spoke about the historic event and about the importance of young people to the future of national parks.

Ranger Monamma Al-Ghuiyy, from President's Park, inspired the crowd with her story of meeting Anderson and how it had affected her life. Fourth grader Sky Jabali-Rainey impressed the audience with her first-person presentation as Anderson. The program concluded with a musical performance and artist from the WPAS, a third-grade class from a Washington elementary school, and the WPAS Children of the Gospel Choir.

Ickes, with the support of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, arranged for Anderson to perform at the Lincoln Memorial after she had been denied access to the segregated Daughters of the American Revolution's Constitution Hall. A crowd of 75,000 people gathered to hear her performance.

The Lincoln Memorial has been a symbol of freedom and equality since that time, and may have served as inspiration for the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech.

Click on the link below to see a short video of Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939.

More Information

By: Jennifer Epstein, NPS
April 10, 2014

This story appears in the April 10, 2014, edition of InsideNPS.

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