Ickes was a liberal member of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, a strong “New Deal” supporter, and administrator of the Public Works Administration, known as “Honest Harold” for his fight against corruption. As a supporter of civil rights, he tried to address the concerns of both American Indians and African Americans. Indeed, some biographical sources present him as a nearly heroic figure, fighting bigotry and racism. It is not entirely clear (to me, anyway) why he was presented as an arrogant, comic caricature in the musical play “Annie,” in which he is forced by President Roosevelt to sing “Tomorrow.”
|Photograph by Robert S. Scurlock, April 9, 1939.|
Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes (center).
Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Anderson’s vocal program included “Ave Maria” (composer not cited) Bach’s “Komm’ Susser Tod,” and “Beautiful City.” Then she led the audience of an estimated ten thousand people in the singing of “America.” I was delighted to learn that Marian Anderson had honored her mentor this way, and to learn the story behind the Scurlock images of her from the 1950s. We are not yet certain if Robert Scurlock was again the photographer—it might have been his brother George, or another Scurlock Studio employee—but it seems highly likely that he was.
Curator of Photography, Archives Center