Penn Museum to Honor Opera Singer Marian Anderson in Honor of Black History Month
The Penn Museum will honor 20th-century civil rights figure and opera singer Marian Anderson during Black History Month.
Throughout February, a series of new public programs and exhibits will commemorate Marian Anderson – a Philadelphia native famous for her contralto – for her artistry and role in the civil rights movement.
As part of the ongoing exhibition “The Stories We Wear”, the Penn Museum will present a merlot dress worn by Anderson, on loan from the Marian Anderson National Museum and Historical Society.
On Feb. 23 at 1 p.m., the Penn Museum will host a “Daily Dig” contextual conference that will focus on Anderson’s dress in “The Stories We Wear” collection, wrote Penn Museum public relations director Jill DiSanto. , in an email. at the Daily Pennsylvanian. Admission is free with a PennCard.
According to DiSanto, the dress was sewn in the 1930s by Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes, a black fashion designer who dressed jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and artist Josephine Baker.
To explore Anderson’s legacy in his own words, the Penn Museum’s virtual book club – “Between the Lines” – will read Anderson’s autobiography, “My Lord, What a Morning: An Autobiography.”
The book describes Anderson’s struggles growing up in South Philadelphia as well as the racial discrimination she faced before becoming an internationally recognized star. The first book club meeting will take place on February 7 at 6 p.m.
Jillian Patricia Pirtle, CEO of the National Marian Anderson Museum & Historical Society, will also participate give a concert titled “The Letters,” which will include a dramatic reading of Anderson and her husband’s 70-year-old correspondence with music in the Penn Museum’s Harrison Auditorium on February 13 at 4 p.m.
“Little is known in the public eye about Marian Anderson’s decades-long romance with her beloved husband, Orpheus ‘King’ Fisher,” Pirtle said at a Penn Museum. Press release. “We are thrilled to be able to continue to share this aspect of Marian Anderson’s life and story with this beautiful and dramatic presentation of their rare and sacred love letters.”
Anderson – born in Philadelphia in 1897 – started singing aged six and applied to the Philadelphia Music Academy after graduating from high school, but was rejected because she was black. She found success in Europe in the early 1930s and returned to America as a star, according to the Marian Anderson Historical Society.
In 1939, Anderson attempted to rent performance space for the Daughters of the American Revolution at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., but was turned down because of her race.
The incident sparked national outrage, prompting First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to hold an outdoor concert at the Lincoln Memorial for Anderson on Easter Sunday. Anderson sang to an audience of 75,000 and millions of radio listeners.
In 1955, Anderson again made history after becoming the first black woman to sing with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Anderson died in 1993 at the age of 96, and February 27 will mark what would have been her 125th birthday.
“Anderson’s legacy is even more relevant and paramount to the current state of our nation,” Pirtle said. in the press release.