This sound recording was made on the afternoon of Sunday, April 9, 1939, from a temporary stage in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.. The recording was made by the U.S. Department of the Interior, under the leadership of Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes.IntroductionOn Easter Sunday in 1939, classical vocalist Marian Anderson gave an open-air performance from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. More than 75,000 people showed up to listen to the free concert. Anderson's performance was introduced by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes.Anderson, one of the United States' most successful classical singers at the time, had been scheduled to perform at Constitution Hall, a celebrated venue operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). However, the DAR refused to allow Anderson, an African-American woman, to perform to an integrated audience. Thousands of members of the DAR resigned in protest, led by first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.With the support of Eleanor and her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ickes organized the concert, which became a groundbreaking moment in civil rights history.Most of the concert is preserved in this sound recording. Anderson's final song, the spiritual "My Soul is Anchored in the Lord," was cut due to recording limitations at the time.OutlineSections of particular interest to educators are italicized.
Strategies for Discussing "Marian Anderson Performs on the National Mall"A series of possible discussion topics is provided in the following tab, "Questions."Strategies for Using Audio Sources
- Introduction: NBC announcer outlines program and introduces Interior Secretary Ickes (start-1:16 min.)
- Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes: "All of us are free" speech decrying bigotry and introducing Marian Anderson (1:16-5:00 min.)
- Marian Anderson: "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)" (5:27-7:17 min.)
- Marian Anderson: "O Mio Fernando," from the opera La Favorite by Gaetano Donizetti (7:34-13:05 min.)
- Marian Anderson: "Ave Maria," traditional, music by Franz Schubert (13:30-18:45 min.)
- Intermission: NBC announcer offers a "word picture" of the Lincoln Memorial and an overview of Marian Anderson's career as a "typical American success story" (18:55-24:12 min.)
- Marian Anderson: "Gospel Train," traditional, arrangement by Henry Burleigh (24:12-25:40 min.)
- Marian Anderson: "Trampin'," by Edward Boatner (25:50-29:12 min.)
- Conclusion: NBC announcer concludes the program, ending with still-familiar NBC jingle (29:12-29:35 min.)
Strategies for Using Primary SourcesOne of the most familiar ways to introduce students to primary sources is the method using the acronym APPARTS.Author: Who created this resource? What is their point of view?Place and Time: When was this resource produced? How might that influence its meaning?Prior Knowledge: What social, cultural, or historical information would help students understand the context of this resource?Audience: Who was the intended audience for this resource? Who is its audience today?Reason: Why was this resource produced?The Main Idea: What message was this resource trying to convey? How has it succeeded or failed?Significance: What message does this resource offer today?
- Prepare students for listening: Whose voices will they be hearing? What is the date of the recording? What technology was used to make this recording?
- Have students listen to the type of material recorded: Is this a political speech? An interview? A conversation or discussion? A court case? A religious or spiritual ceremony? A piece of entertainment?
- Have students listen to the language in the recording: What language(s) are heard in the recording? What does this indicate about the speaker? What does it indicate about the audience?
- Discuss the recording after listening to one or more sections: What was important about this recording? Why has it been preserved?
This free concert was introduced by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes. (1:16) What made him an appropriate choice?
In his introductory speech, Ickes denounces bigotry and injustice, shaming those "too timid or too indifferent" (3:35) to support equality. However, to modern listeners, his speech is still somewhat problematic. Why?
In 1939, Marian Anderson was a well-established classical vocalist. She was wildly popular in Europe and was completing one of the longest and most successful tours of any singer in American history—performing at more than 70 venues across the country. The concert at Constitution Hall was supposed to be a triumphant end to that tour. Why didn't she perform there?
The first song on Marian Anderson's Easter Sunday program is "America." (5:27) Why was this patriotic song particularly appropriate?
At the beginning of the recording, the announcer recognizes Marian Anderson as having an "outstanding contralto voice." During the intermission, he quotes Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini as saying "a voice like [hers] is heard once in a hundred years." (23:25) What makes a contralto voice so distinct?
Anderson's last two songs are classically arranged spirituals. What are spirituals, and how do they differ from traditional religious music such as "Ave Maria"?
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry aria Noun
song, or part of a song or melody, usually sung in an opera.
prejudiced or intolerant of a person or group not like oneself.
group of high-ranking government officials, usually top advisers to a president or monarch.
civil rights movement Noun
(~1954-1968) process to establish equal rights for all people in the United States, focusing on the rights of African Americans.
contralto adjective, noun
deepest register of the female voice.
Eleanor Roosevelt Noun
(1884-1962) American diplomat and first lady (wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt).
to combine, unite, or bring together.
religious worship or ritual.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Noun
(1929-1968) American pastor and civil rights leader.
mezzo-soprano adjective, noun
middle register or range of the female voice, between a soprano (high) and contralto (low). Also called mezzo.
(National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) civil rights organization.
National Park Service Noun
U.S. federal agency with the mission of caring "for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage."
comic or dramatic play in which all roles are sung.
government or social system based on the belief that one ethnic group is superior to all others.
series of tones or notes of the human voice. Also called a vocal register.
the highest range of the female voice.
religious song, often a traditional folk melody.
part of a poem, marked by a certain number of lines or syllables.