DOINews: NPS: Education Program Brings Students to National Mall to Learn about Marian Anderson

Last edited 09/05/2019

Students performing Students perform "America" at the Lincoln Memorial, following in Marian Anderson's footsteps. Photo by NPS.

As part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Marian Anderson's concert at the Lincoln Memorial, fourth- and fifth-grade students from the school she attended in Philadelphia traveled to Washington on Friday, Nov. 14, to participate in an education program about the landmark 1939 performance. The 30 students attend Edwin M. Stanton Elementary and were joined by more than 80 students from Stanton Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

In April, 1939, African American classical vocalist Marian Anderson was denied permission to perform before an integrated audience at the Daughters of the American Revolution's Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. With the encouragement of President Franklin Roosevelt, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes arranged for Anderson to give a concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. On April 9, Easter Sunday, Anderson performed to an estimated audience of 75,000. The event became a watershed moment in civil rights history.

Prior to the on-site program at the Lincoln Memorial, students from both schools had a classroom visit from NAMA education specialist Jennifer Epstein and park ranger Bethany Bagent to prepare them for the program and build excitement for the visit. Students from the two schools also wrote to each other in preparation for the visit.

On the day of the program, Epstein welcomed the students to the Lincoln Memorial. The students then shared information from Anderson's autobiography, Philadelphia students reading accounts of her early experiences with racism, and the D.C. students reading about the Lincoln Memorial concert.

A recording of a portion of the concert was played, including Ickes' introduction of Anderson, and a portion of her first song, “America.” President's Park youth programs coordinator Monamma AL-Ghuiyy spoke to the students about her experience meeting Anderson while a park ranger in Boston. To close the program, both schools joined together on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to sing “America,” just as Anderson had done 75 years before.

After the formal program, the students visited related sites on the National Mall, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to discussed King's “I Have Dream Speech,” another landmark civil-rights event, which also took place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial; and the Washington Monument.

Transportation for both groups was made possible by a grant from the National Park Foundation's Ticket to Ride, a program, that provides efficient transportation to national parks for more than 100,000 students annually. Katherine Chesson, manager of Grants and Programs with NPF, attended the program and welcomed the students to Washington.

Washington, D.C., Fox affiliate WTTG covered the event; watch the story here.

By: Mike Litterest, NPS

Nov. 21, 2014

Related Link:

NPS-National Mall and Memorial Parks

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