Women's Historic Firsts: Marian Anderson ensemble

March 7, 2018
orange and black ensemble

Hugh Talman

Marian Anderson ensemble

Marian Anderson (Feb. 27, 1897 – April 8, 1993) was an African-American contralto and one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th century. She was the first African American to perform with the Metropolitan Opera in New York on Jan. 7, 1955.

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. With the support of President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson instead performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. She sang before a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions. 

Anderson wore this orange Shantung silk jacket (redesigned with permission in 1993) and black velvet skirt for her historic Easter Sunday performance.

Collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Gift of Ginette DePreist in memory of James DePreist.

Photo by Hugh Talman / Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

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