Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Marian Anderson Tribute Concert

On Easter Sunday, 1939, Marian Anderson performed outdoors to a crowd of 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial, having been barred because of her race from singing at Constitution Hall. It was an iconic moment in the civil rights struggle. Seventy years later, on Easter Sunday, 2009, Denyce Graves, a Washington native and one of the world's most celebrated mezzo-sopranos, sang portions of Anderson’s 1939 program in a tribute to the great African American contralto, whom Graves described as her hero.

“It is the honor of my life and my career to be celebrating this day of freedom with you,” Graves said while wearing a sleeveless silk gown that Anderson had given her.

General Colin Powell, of Jamaican ancestry and the son of immigrants, watched Graves perform before he led a naturalization ceremony for 191 candidates for U.S. citizenship. Powell, who broke the color barrier as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, later, as secretary of state, was the keynote speaker. He described the last paragraph of Lincoln’s second inaugural speech as “almost a prayer” after he recited its words:

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in."

2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

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