National Museum of African American
History and Culture
Gift of Ginette DePreist in memory of James DePreist. Photo by Hugh Talman, Smithsonian Institution.
The concert attire is part of a collection donated to the museum by Ginette DePreist, the widow of the celebrated conductor James DePreist (1936-2013) who was Anderson’s nephew.
By the time Anderson gave that Lincoln Memorial performance, she had established a stellar reputation in Europe. But despite her successes abroad, racial discrimination in the United States continued to create obstacles in her career. Howard University wanted to host Anderson for a concert engagement in Washington, D.C., and approached the Daughters of the American Revolution about using Constitution Hall. DAR had a policy that barred the use of the hall by African American performers, and Howard had made similar requests in the past without success. Once again, the DAR denied the concert planners’ request. DAR’s refusal to let Anderson perform at Constitution Hall became a national story when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt publicly resigned her membership in the organization: “You had the opportunity to lead in an enlightened way, and it seems to me that your organization has failed.” In response, Walter White, executive secretary of the NAACP, and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes arranged for Anderson to give a public concert on the steps of the
Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939. Learn More
Edison R. Wato, Jr.
Membership Program Manager