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Music: Jim Crow Concert Hall

2 minute read

One of the greatest concert singers of this generation is Marian Anderson, Philadelphia-born Negro contralto. Since she skyrocketed to fame in Salzburg four years ago, the music-lovers and critics of the world’s musical capitals have counted it a privilege to hear her sing. Last week it looked as though music-lovers in provincial Washington, D.C. might be denied this privilege. Reason: Washington’s only large concert auditorium, Constitution Hall, is owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution, who are so proud they won’t eat mush—much less let a Negro sing from their stage.

Last January, when Contralto Anderson’s manager tried to book Constitution Hall for a concert in April, D. A. R. officials said they were sorry but the hall was taken. When alternative dates were suggested, the D. A. R. frostily replied that all the dates were taken. Sympathetic protests began to pour in from all sides: last week they reached peak proportions. Among the most impressive: that of the American Union of Democracy, in which Walter Damrosch, Deems Taylor and a Who’s Who of prominent musicians. churchmen and journalists hoped “that this amazing action reflects the opinion of some irresponsible official.”

While irate Washingtonians formed a Marian Anderson’s Citizens’ Committee and held a mass meeting attended by 1,500, Violinist Jascha Heifetz, who arrived in Washington on a concert tour, said he was “ashamed” to appear in Constitution Hall under the circumstances.

This week, while the Daughters continued to preserve a thin-lipped silence, Daughter Eleanor Roosevelt announced in her syndicated Scripps-Howard column that she was resigning from the D. A. R. in protest.

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