Lincoln Bicentennial Commission Honors Marian Anderson

Norma Porter | 4/8/2009, 12:38 p.m.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Howard University, the NAACP and its leader Walter White, and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes helped African American opera singer Marian Anderson arrange her concert on Easter Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial, after the DAR Constitution Hall rejected her request because of her race in the year 1939.

Now, in 2009, the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, along with opera singer Denise Graves, female a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, the Chicago Children€s Choir, and the U.S. Marine Band, is hosting a free concert on Easter Sunday, April 12, at the Lincoln Memorial to honor Marian Anderson and the 70th anniversary of the concert.
President Barack Obama, along with congressional leaders, established the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC) to help plan the celebration of Lincoln€s 200th birthday. Members of the commission are political leaders, jurists, historians and collectors, according to a press release issued by the ALBC.

€Our country has made progress since Lincoln€s time, since Marian Anderson€s time,€ Eileen Mackevich, ALBC executive director, said. €The Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and its Foundation are honored that such talented and acclaimed artists will join us to pay tribute to the memories of Lincoln, [Marian] Anderson, [Martin Luther] King [Jr.], and all the civil rights leaders who set the precedents that made it possible to elect an African American president, and who inspire us still to struggle on for €a more perfect union.€€

Dr. Raymond Arsenault, John Hope Franklin Professor of History at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg and author of Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial and the Concert that Awakened America, said the concert is important because it will remind the younger generations, who may not know much about Anderson, about the importance of her mission just as people are now re-discovering Jackie Robinson and how he €broke the color line in Major League Baseball€.

€It [the discrimination Marian Anderson experienced] turned civil rights into a national issue and highlighted the notion that segregation was a stain on America€s conscious; it [racial discrimination] wasn€t just something that happened in Georgia or Alabama and it wasn€t just the KKK and other extremists, it was built into the fiber of American life,€ Arsenault said. €The fact that she was discriminated against by the Daughters of the Revolution, one of the most patriotic organizations of that time, reinforced that racism and segregation was a national problem.€

Dr. Ysaye Maria Barnwell, one of five members of Sweet Honey in the Rock, said it is important to commemorate Marian Anderson€s concert on Easter Sunday because it was also one of the first demonstrations on the Lincoln Memorial, which became the major moment leading into the Civil Rights Movement.

It was one of the first demonstrations at the Lincoln Memorial and 75,000 people gathered and she was the key reason and person. She hit the stage to say €I will sing€,€ Barnwell said. €She [Anderson] needs to be celebrated for her courage, dignity, grace and her talent and the way in which she used her talent.€

In addition to the concert, the ALBC is also welcoming 200 newly naturalized American citizens on April 12. General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell will address the newly naturalized citizens and read excerpts from Lincoln€s Second Inaugural Address, according to the ALBC€s press release.
The concert is free and open to the public. It is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on April 12 on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial.

For more information, contact the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission at 202-707-6998 or visit www.abrahamlincoln200.org.
Dr. Josephine Lee, Artistic Director of the Chicago Children's Choir, Dr. Ysaye Barwell, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Dr. Raymond Arsenault, Author of "The Sound of Freedom": Marian Anderson,The Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert that Awakened America" plan their performances at the Lincoln Memorial Redidacation Series: Marian Anderson Tribute Concert held Sun. April 12 at the Lincoln Memorial Plaza. Photo by Roy Lewis.
Ysaye Maria Barnwell, one of five members of Sweet Honey in the Rock speaks about honoring Marian Anderson. Photo by Roy Lewis.