Spotlight: When Marian Anderson Sang at the Lincoln Memorial

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As part of our month-long celebration of Black History Month, today we feature recordings of some pieces the great contralto Marian Anderson sang at the historic April 9, 1939 Lincoln Memorial concert, including Ave Maria, Gospel train and My Soul is Anchored in the Lord.

It’s impossible to speak of civil rights, not just in music but nationwide, without mentioning Anderson. The Philadelphia native had to traveled to Europe to perform, and impressed Arturo Toscanini, who said "a voice like hers is heard only once in a hundred years."

In 1939, having been denied the use of Washington DC's Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Anderson drew a crowd of 75,000 – and a radio audience in the millions – to a hastily convened outdoor concert at the Lincoln Memorial. The event forever established Anderson as an ambassador for racial progress -- a role she embraced with great pride and success for the remainder of her career.

Anderson later broke the color barrier at the Metropolitan Opera on Jan. 7, 1955 at age 58. She played the role of Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi's opera Un Ballo in Maschera (The Masked Ball).

Watch a video excerpt of the event below: