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Constitution Hall (1929) was built for the annual conventions of the Daughters of the American Revolution and was made available for the public to rent as an entertainment venue. The DAR became infamous in 1939 as the organization that refused to allow soprano Marian Anderson to perform in its hall.

Although most of Washington's white-owned performance spaces practiced segregation, the fact that Marian Anderson was internationally acclaimed and that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a DAR member turned the refusal into a national cause célèbre. Outraged residents, led by noted lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston, formed the Marian Anderson Citizens Committee. They first requested the use of white Central High School (now Cardozo) from the DC Board of Education. The Board agreed but would only grant permission on a one-time basis so that the event did not set the precedent of permitting African American performers and audiences to use a white public school. This was not acceptable.

Working with Eleanor Roosevelt (who had resigned from the DAR), Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, and NAACP head Walter White, the committee secured the Lincoln Memorial for the concert. The event energized the city's early civil rights movement. The DAR eventually changed its policy, and Anderson would perform here six times.


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