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Voice of Freedom | American Experience

Marian Anderson singing in front of Lincoln Memorial and surrounded by crowd
Courtesy of World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
Marian Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Easter Sunday, 1939.

Mon. Feb. 15 at 9pm on WKAR-HD 23.1 & STREAMINGVoice of Freedom interweaves Marian Anderson’s rich life story with this landmark moment in history, exploring fundamental questions about talent, race, fame, democracy and the American soul.On Easter Sunday, 1939, contralto Marian Anderson stepped up to a microphone in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Inscribed on the walls of the monument behind her were the words, “All men are created equal.” Barred from performing in Constitution Hall because of her race, Anderson would sing for the American people in the open air. Hailed as a voice that, “...comes around once in a hundred years,” by maestros in Europe and widely celebrated by both white and Black audiences at home, her fame hadn’t been enough to spare her from the indignities and outright violence of racism and segregation.

Anderson’s concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, became one of the largest gatherings ever in the nation’s capital—75,000 people—and millions more listened to the radio broadcast. When she finished singing, Anderson spoke to the crowd for the first and only time. “My dear friends,” she said, “I am so overwhelmed that I cannot express myself. I hope you will ever find me grateful for the wonderful things you have done for me. Please try to imagine all the things I cannot say.” For the rest of her life, Anderson would be remembered for this concert, an event she never discussed outside her inner circle. The concert also helped enshrine the Lincoln Memorial as a symbol of civil rights, freedom and justice.

Watch each episode at video.wkar.org during or after the premiere date.

For?more than?30 years,?American Experience?has been television’s most-watched history series, bringing?to life the incredible characters and epic stories that have shaped America’s past and present. American Experience documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award, including 30?Emmy Awards, four duPont-Columbia Awards and 18 George Foster Peabody Awards.?PBS’ signature history series?also creates original digital content that?innovates?new forms of storytelling to connect our collective past with the present.?Cameo George is the series executive producer. American Experience?is produced for PBS by GBH Boston. Visit pbs.org/americanexperience, and follow us on?Facebook, Twitter,?Instagram?and?YouTube?to learn more.

Major funding for American Experience?is provided by Liberty Mutual Insurance, Consumer Cellular and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Additional funding is provided by?the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation,?The Documentary Investment Group, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.

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