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[Names are listed from right to left.]
Back Row :(standing) Hubbardine Daniels, Bernice Allain, Ethelyne Watts, Evelyn Flemming, Essie Moohn, Zelda Belton, Mildred Hall, Edna Simmons, Marian Anderson, C.L. Speaker, Lucille Hutton, Lucille Tureaud, Mercedes Green Davis, M.D.Bowen, Haleemon Shaik, Marion Rieras, Leah McKenna, Dorothy Shane.
Second Row : Florice Brazley, Lois Neale, Ruth Carter, Iris Garrett, Louise Bouise, Vivian Dupart, Rose Rieras, Mary McCullum, Mary Grace Harris.
Front Row: (seated) Francis Wilson, Cecilia Eugere, Toleda Welch, Rita Wilson, Anna Dejoie, Carmen Rogers, Elaine Rieras, Fay Rieras, Jeanne Davis, Daisy Blanchet, Emma Davis and Jacqueline Shelton.
Members not in the photo : Fannie C. Williams, Eleanore Thompson, Annette Montegut, Mae Rhodes, and Lois Faustina. [Photo by A.P. Bedou]
The photo above was taken at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Kriege of St. Charles Avenue on Monday night, 06 May 1940, after the internationally acclaimed vocalist, Marian Anderson, held her much anticipated recital at the Municipal Auditorium. At the home she was entertained by her New Orleans Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters who regarded her as the world’s greatest singer.
Miss Anderson was made an honorary member of AKA by the national organization after an incident wherein the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to allow her to sing at Constitution Hall, a hall which the DAR owned. Daughters of the American Revolution had a strict policy against allowing African-American entertainers on their stage. In response, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt withdrew her membership in the DAR and instead, invited Ms. Anderson to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. This momentous event took place on Easter Sunday, 09 April 1939, before a crowd of 75,000 people.
Long before the arrival of Miss Anderson and Mrs. M.D. Bowen, whose house-guest she was, many admirers had gathered on the porch of the St. Charles Street mansion, lined the walks in the yard and along the sidewalk outside, while others waited in their cars.
At the door to greet the guests were: Edna E. Simmons, Evelyn Flemming, Carmen Rogers, and Mrs. Oscar Bouise. Mrs. George McKenna graciously introduced them to the members of the receiving line. In the line were: Mmes. C.L. Speaker, Margaret Davis Bowen, Mrs.Kriege, Misses Lois Neale, Fay Rieras and the guest of honor, Miss Anderson. All of the young soror members were attired in beautiful evening creations. Presiding at the punch bowl was Master A.P. Tureaud, assisted by Misses Jeanne Davis and Theresa Moon.
Incidentally, the colored ushers were the music students from Xavier and Dillard Universities, McDonogh #35, Gaudet, Gilbert Academy and Xavier Prep High Schools. Presenting flowers to Marian Anderson on the stage were Huston Dutton and Belmont Haydel.
Many proclaimed this recital in New Orleans to have been the biggest and best thing to have occurred in the city in many years. Five thousand persons (of which 2,300 were people of color) thunderously applauded the queen of song as she majestically moved upon the stage and took her pose near the grand piano.
It was the artist’s 75th concert engagement of the year and, with the exception of the Metropolitan Opera performance, the recital was the greatest financial success in many years. Her diction, enunciation and pronunciation were gems of perfection as she sang songs in German, French, Finnish, Spanish and English. Her voice was said to have been velvety smooth, wide ranging, flexible and rich. The thunderous applause which greeted her closing number showed how completely she had won over her vast audience.
Marian Anderson’s appearance in New Orleans had not been without controversy. The white organizers of the concert had planned a whites-only event, but after vociferous protests from blacks, the Municipal Auditorium allocated seats for them only in the balcony. The NAACP protested that “horizontal” segregation of this kind was insulting to people of color and that only “vertical” segregation, whereby colored and whites sat on opposite sides of the hall but on the same level, would be acceptable.
When the Municipal Auditorium’s Commission rejected this demand, refusing to let blacks sit on the ground floor, the NAACP voted to boycott the concert. This proposed boycott split the black community. The sororities and fraternities wanted the concert to go ahead because they saw it as an opportunity for an internationally renowned black singer to perform in New Orleans. Even the Louisiana Weekly lashed out at the organization in print accusing its executive director, Roy Wilkins of “fighting to keep Negroes from hearing a great Negro artist.” The NAACP failed to persuade Ms. Anderson to cancel her appearance and failed to dissuade blacks from attending. They lost the fight and Anderson’s concert was held with Negroes sitting in the balcony. An event many would never forget.
Sources: Photo (courtesy of Amistad Research Center, Tulane University); Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana 1915-1972 by: Fairclough, Adam (1995 –Univ. of Georgia); The Louisiana Weekly, 11 May 1940 p.1-2 and 3.
Lolita V. Cherrie