During the 1930s, Arturo Toscanini had told the American contralto Marian
Anderson, "A voice like yours comes but once in a century." In 1941, when she
booked Constitution Hall in Washington, D. C. for a concert, her booking was
cancelled by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the owners of the hall.
Walter White of the NAACP told Eleanor Roosevelt what had happened, suggesting
that the concert could be held out of doors on government property. Mrs.
Roosevelt called Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, and the concert was
held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before a crowd of 75,000. Despite this
triumph, Marian Anderson did not make her Metropolitan Opera debut until 1955,
when she was fifty-three, becoming the first African American to sing at the Met.