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Benefit for Marian Anderson House honors 83rd anniversary of singer’s Lincoln Memorial concert

Today the National Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society commemorated the 83rd anniversary of Marian Anderson's April 9, 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial with a special performance of selections from that historic day. “When Marian Sang: The Lincoln Memorial Tribute Concert” took place this afternoon at the Chapel of the Four Chaplains in Philadelphia featuring performances by the National Marian Anderson Scholar Artists under the direction of Thomas Weaver from the Curtis Institute of Music.

Marian Anderson, already an internationally acclaimed African-American contralto, performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday 1939 to a crowd of over 75,000 after being denied the opportunity to perform in Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution based on her race. Her performance was both a personal and national triumph as an enduring touchstone of the civil rights movement, or as was appropriately titled by a Metrotone “News of the Day” reel’s recounting of the event, Nation’s Capital Gets a Lesson in Tolerance. During her performance of “America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee)”, Anderson notably changes the word “I” to “we” as she sang the line, “of thee we sing.”

Proceeds from today’s “When Marian Sang” tribute concert will benefit the Marian Anderson House as it continues its extensive recovery from significant water damage sustained in 2020 as a result of burst water pipes, estimated at nearly half a million dollars. Repair and restoration efforts began in 2021, including preservation treatments of the house museum and its precious artifacts. Due to the house museum’s ongoing recovery, tours will continue to be virtual until all emergency repairs and related restoration activities have been completed.

The 1857 Italianate row house on South Martin Street (now Marian Anderson Way) was purchased in 1924 with the help of Marian Anderson’s mother Anna and from her own earnings as a musician. From 1924 to 1943, the home remained Anderson's primary residence and office despite her substantial touring across the US and abroad, and she owned it until 1990. Her former residence currently operates as the home of the National Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society. It is recognized as a local, state and national treasure with historic designations awarded by the Philadelphia Historical Commission, the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office and the National Register of Historic Places.

A display of Marian Anderson’s costumes in the National Marian Anderson Museum (Photo: Kim Paynter, WHYY)

The National Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society’s Spring Giving Challenge is underway! Consider supporting the Marian Anderson House by taking a virtual tour, purchasing something from their online shop, making a donation or by becoming a sponsor. Thank you!

We are excited about the future of the Marian Anderson House and the supportive heritage interpretation projects that are taking shape around it, including a proposed Marian Anderson statue to be installed on the front steps of the Academy of Music as well as a Marian Anderson heritage trail in South Philadelphia!

A cardboard cutout of Marian Anderson stands on the proposed location of her future statue. (Photo: South Philly Review)

To learn more about the historic significance of Marian Anderson's Lincoln Memorial concert and her broader cultural impact in the performing arts as well as the civil rights movement, check out these recent documentaries below. Click on each image for further information!

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