Unfortunately, the racism of the day prevailed, and Marian Anderson was not granted access to Constitution Hall. Part of the reason for the denial was a 1932 rule adopted by the Daughters of the American Revolution, which stated that no person of color could perform at Constitution Hall. First Lady Roosevelt, who was a member of the organization, immediately resigned out of protest. Needless to say, the resignation of a person of Roosevelt's stature did not go unnoticed, and the organization changed its rules shortly thereafter.
The following is a copy of Eleanor Roosevelt's letter of resignation from the Daughters of the American Revolution:
My Dear Mrs. Robert:Sadly, Anderson never performed at Constitution Hall, but Roosevelt's protest did not go unnoticed. On April 9, 1939, Anderson performed on Easter Sunday in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where over 75,000 had assembled to hear her sing:
I am afraid that I have never been a very good member of the Daughters of the American Revolution so I know it will make very little difference to you whether I resign, or whether I continue to be a member of your organization.
However, I am in complete disagreement with the attitude taken in refusing Constitution Hall to a great artist. You have set an example which seems to me unfortunate, and I feel obliged to send into you my resignation. You had an opportunity to lead in an enlightened way and it seems to me that your organization has failed.
I realize that many people will not agree with me, but feeling as I do this seems to me the only proper procedure to follow.
Very Sincerely yours,
In her autobiography, Anderson recalled the historic concert: "All I knew then was the overwhelming impact of that vast multitude...I had a feeling that a great wave of good will poured out from these people."