THE New York Times reports that the death of Marian...

Salmagundi

May 19, 1993

THE New York Times reports that the death of Marian Anderson last month has revived a half-century-old dispute over the role played by the Daughters of the American Revolution in refusing the black contralto's request to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington on Easter Sunday, 1939.

After stories recounting the incident were published in newspapers around the world, members of the D.A.R., an organization of women who trace their ancestry to the American Revolution, complained the group was being unfairly accused of racism.

"The D.A.R. contends that the only reason Miss Anderson's request was rejected was that Constitution Hall was already booked for that Easter Sunday," the Times reported. "The group acknowledges that its lease for the hall included a 'white artists only' restriction, but insists that because of the prior commitment, the restrictive clause had no bearing on the rejection."

This explanation may strike some as a distinction without a difference. However, the controversy has brought to light additional details regarding the episode.

It appears, for example, that the decision not to allow Miss Anderson to sing was made by the D.A.R.'s concert hall manager, Fred E. Hand, who died in 1958. Mr. Hand introduced the racial ban in 1932 after an unpleasant incident at the hall involving the black baritone Roland Hayes. The group's own records confirm that the D.A.R. board acquiesced in the exclusionary policy.

Sol Hurok, Miss Anderson's manager, also recalled that he applied for several dates and was told all were taken. He then asked his friend Marks Levine, who represented the Polish pianist Ignaz Paderewski, to apply for the dates Miss Anderson had been refused. Mr. Hurok reported that Mr. Levine was told all the dates in question were available for a white artist.

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