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Draft Cover of “Art and the Color Line” by Anson Phelps Stokes, 1939.
Anson Phelps Stokes Papers. Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Lauren Libaw ’09, Anson Phelps Stokes and the Marian Anderson Controversy

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In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution objected to the slated appearance of world-famous black opera singer Marian Anderson at Constitution Hall, arguing that because of factors related to her race, she should not be permitted to sing at such a prominent venue. The recital was ultimately cancelled, although a veritable barrage of protests ensued. A clarion voice among them was that of Dr. Anson Phelps Stokes. Stokes was secretary of Yale University at the turn of the twentieth century and had a long and distinguished career at Yale as an administrator. He also served as assistant rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in New Haven for eighteen years. Stokes responded to this incident by throwing his full support behind Anderson. His treatise “Art and the Color Line” was written to protest the situation. Stokes’s handwritten edits decorate the page upon which this draft is printed. The larger work addresses issues of racial politics as they relate related to art and performance in the first half of the twentieth century, in America and abroad. Concise yet compelling, the treatise is a direct appeal to reason and logic in the face of racial prejudice.