In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution after it barred Marian Anderson from performing an Easter concert at its Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. citing a “white artists only” restriction in the hall’s lease.
After coming to the conclusion that to remain as a member of the D.A.R. implied approval of that action, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt sent the following letter:
My dear Mrs. Henry M. Robert, Jr.:
I am afraid that I have never been a very useful member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, so I know it will make very little difference to you whether I resign, or whether I continue to be a member of your organization.
However, I am in complete disagreement with the attitude taken in refusing Constitution Hall to a great artist. You have set an example which seems to me unfortunate, and I feel obliged to send in to you my resignation. You had an opportunity to lead in an enlightened way and it seems to me that your organization has failed.
I realize that many people will not agree with me, but feeling as I do this seems to me the only proper procedure to follow.
Very sincerely yours,
On Easter Sunday 1939, Marian Anderson gave her concert, but she performed at the Lincoln Memorial before seventy-five thousand people – black, white, old, and young. She opened her concert with “America.” The operatic first half of the program concluded with “Ave Maria.” After a short intermission, she sang a selection of spirituals, and then with tears in her eyes, Marian Anderson closed the concert with “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”.