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In 1939, First Lady Eleonor Roosevelt publicly condemned the Daughters of the American Revolution after they refused to allow celebrated opera singer Marian Anderson, who was black, to perform at DAR Constitution Hall. After sending this letter and resigning from the DAR — a move that inspired thousands of others to do the same — Eleanor Roosevelt invited Anderson to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a concert that 75,000 people attended.


We're excited to bring you Roosevelt's letter in full, an excerpt from the book Letters Of Note, Volume 2: An Eclectic Collection Of Correspondence Deserving Of A Wider Audience:

February 26, 1939.

My dear Mrs. Henry M. Robert, Jr.:

I am afraid that I have never been a very useful 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 in to 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,

Eleanor Roosevelt


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Erika W. Smith is BUST's digital editorial director. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @erikawynn and email her at erikawsmith@bust.com.

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