On April 9, 1939 (which happen to be Easter Sunday that year) the contralto Marian Anderson sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before a crowd of 75,000. She began her performance with “America,” then proceeded to sing an Italian aria, Schubert’s Ave Maria, & several Negro spirituals. She also sang “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”
This concert occurred because the DAR (Daughter’s of the American Revolution) would not let her perform in their Constitution Hall, which was the premiere concert venue in Washington D.C. at that time. Why? Because she was not white. It was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes that arranged for the world- renowned singer to appear at the Lincoln Memorial for the open air concert.
Marian Anderson would make her debut performance in Constitution Hall, by invitation of the Daughters of the American Revolution, in 1943 with a concert benefiting United China Relief.