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Interior Department hosts reenactment of singer’s historic performance

Legendary African-American opera singer Marian Anderson appeared at the department in 1939 after being denied an opportunity to sing at a Washington concert hall because of her race.

The Interior Department hosted on Tuesday a reenactment of legendary opera singer Marian Anderson's historic 1939 VIP concert at its Sidney Yates Auditorium in Washington. Ivy Anderson Hylton, a relative of the renowned vocalist, performed the songs Anderson sang on the same stage nearly 70 years ago, including renditions of "America the Beautiful," "Ave Maria," and "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."

Anderson performed at Interior on the evening of April 9, 1939, after singing earlier in the day before an estimated 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial. That performance was scheduled after the Daughters of the American Revolution denied her the opportunity to sing at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington because she was African-American.

Interior employees and members of the public attended the free reenactment of Anderson's performance. The department's Special Emphasis Observance Committee and the National Park Service sponsored the event.

During the reenactment, Hylton was accompanied by a pianist playing the same Steinway Model B grand concert piano on which Anderson was accompanied in 1939. In 2004, then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton gave a special historic designation to the piano in memory of Anderson and Harold L. Ickes, who was Interior secretary under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Ickes helped arrange Anderson's performance at the Lincoln Memorial.

At Tuesday's event, David Verhey, Interior's principal deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, said, "It is a privilege to know that this agency played a role in making this day happen."

Editor's Note: Ivy Anderson Hylton is the stepmother of Chawndese Hylton.