Using its extensive Hearst Metrotone News Collection and an NBC radio broadcast, the UCLA Film & Television Archive is creating, insofar as surviving material makes it possible, a full concert film of a key event in U.S. civil rights history: the 1939 Easter Sunday concert at the Lincoln Memorial by the African American contralto Marian Anderson.
As detailed in UCLA's headnotes on the film, in early 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution declined music impresario Sol Hurok's request to book Marian Anderson into its Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Her race was evidently the reason. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt then resigned from the DAR, an act that increased public awareness of the controversy. Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes arranged for a concert on the Lincoln Memorial steps. On April 9, 1939, Marian Anderson sang before a live audience of seventy-five thousand and a national radio audience of millions more.