04 December 2008

DAR Turned Marian Anderson Away on Easter Sunday 1939

Growing up in the US in the 1940's, I often heard the DAR spoken of reverentially and knew that membership was regarded as one ticket punch for entry into the social register. I did not know then that my mother, a Langdon, was descended from John Langdon (my 5G grandfather) of Hempstead, L.I., who served two tours in the Revolution, one as a sergeant and one as a lieutenant despite being a practicing Quaker. Unfortunately, I did not find this out until a few years after my mother died. I'm sure she would have gotten a kick out of the idea.

I have found, similarly, that my wife, through her father's mother's line, Bement's, also has an ancestor who fought in the Revolution and her family didn't know it until I tracked down their family tree.

After my son was married and I worked on our daughter-in-law's family tree, which had already been well researched by her grandfather, I found an ancestor of theirs who had been involved in the Revolution although they were unaware that they also had such an ancestor .

Of course, some of the bloom has gone off the DAR/SAR rose for me as I've learned of some of the less savoury aspects of the DAR. For example, I was a bit shocked to find out that in 1932 the DAR had excluded black artists from Constitution Hall in DC after protests about "mixed seating"!

This exclusion policy came to a head as Easter Sunday, 1939, approached when the DAR refused to allow the great opera singer, Marian Anderson, to perform at Constitution Hall because of her race. I am proud, however, that a distant cousin of mine, Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned her membership and helped to arrange for Anderson's concert to be held at the Lincoln Memorial.

The concert was attended by a crowd estimated to be over 75,000. The concert was a one small victory on the path to overcoming prejudice and hate--a long, bumpy road.

No comments: