April 9, 2020
Day 100 of 366
April 9th is the 100th day of the year. It is National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day in the United States.
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Cherish an Antique Day, National Chinese Almond Cookie Day, National Name Yourself Day, National Unicorn Day, National Winston Churchill Day, and National Alcohol Screening Day. The last one is typically observed on Thursday of the first full week in April.
Historical items of note:
- In 1784, the Treaty of Paris was ratified by King George III of the Kingdom of Great Britain. It has previously been ratified by the United States Congress on January 14th, and the document formally ended the American Revolutionary War. Copies of the ratified documents would be exchanged on May 12th.
- In 1860, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville made the oldest known recording of an audible human voice on his phonautograph machine.
- In 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia (nearly 27,000 strong) to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. This action effectively ended the American Civil War.
- In 1937, Canadian screenwriter and producer Marty Krofft was born.
- In 1945, the United States Atomic Energy Commission was formed.
- In 1947, the Journey of Reconciliation began through the upper American South. It was the first interracial Freedom Ride and took place in violation of Jim Crow laws. The riders wanted enforcement of the United States Supreme Court’s 1946 Irene Morgan decision that banned racial segregation in interstate travel.
- In 1959, NASA announced the selection of the United States’ first seven astronauts: Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Gordon Cooper, Wally Schirra, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, and Scott Carpenter. They were quickly dubbed as the “Mercury Seven”.
- In 1979, actress Keshia Knight Pulliam was born.
- In 1991, Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union.
In 1939, African-American singer Marian Anderson gave a concert at the Lincoln Memorial after being denied the use of Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Anderson became an important figure in the struggle for black artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. At the time, Washington, D.C., was a segregated city and black patrons were upset that they had to sit at the back of Constitution Hall. The venue also did not have the segregated public bathrooms required by DC law at the time for such events. The District of Columbia Board of Education also declined a request to use the auditorium of a white public high school.
The incident thrust her into the spotlight of the international community on a level unusual for a classical musician.
Charles Edward Russell, a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and chair of the DC citywide Inter-Racial Committee, convened a meeting the next day and formed the Marian Anderson Citizens Committee (MACC) composed of several dozen organizations, church leaders and individual activists in the city. The committee elected Charles Hamilton Houston as its chairman and on February 20, the group picketed the board of education, collected signatures on petitions, and planned a mass protest at the next board of education meeting.
As a result of the ensuing furor, thousands of DAR members, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned from the organization. Roosevelt wrote: “I am in complete disagreement with the attitude taken in refusing Constitution Hall to a great artist … You had an opportunity to lead in an enlightened way and it seems to me that your organization has failed.”
With the aid of the First Lady and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the capital. She sang before an integrated crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions.
Two months later, in conjunction with the 30th NAACP conference in Richmond, Virginia, Eleanor Roosevelt gave a speech on national radio and presented Anderson with the 1939 Spingarn Medal for distinguished achievement.
Anderson continued to break barriers for black artists in the United States, becoming the first black person, American or otherwise, to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 7, 1955. Her performance as Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Met was the only time she sang an opera role on stage.
She worked for several years as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and as a “goodwill ambassadress” for the United States Department of State. She participated in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, singing at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Among her various awards and honors, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, the Congressional Gold Medal in 1977, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the National Medal of Arts in 1986, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.
She died on April 8, 1993, at the age of 96.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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