In honor of Black History Month, the Penn Museum and the National Marian Anderson Museum & Historical Society are presenting public programs to honor the life and work of the groundbreaking contralto singer, Marian Anderson.
The month-long celebration of Marian Anderson’s achievements includes a virtual book club series, which will read “My Lord, What a Morning: An Autobiography” by Marian Anderson, a concert and inclusion in an exhibition.
The first of three book club meetings will take place on Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.
Anderson, a gifted opera singer, was born in Philadelphia. Her voice helped her break down racial barriers in music. In 1939, she was denied the opportunity to sing to an integrated audience at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. The incident put a spotlight on her. With the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson was able to sing at the Lincoln Memorial steps in the capital. She sang in front of an integrated crowd of 75,000 people. It was a powerful moment.
Jillian Patricia Pirtle, CEO of National Marian Anderson Museum & Historical Society, says “She really felt in life that whatever she achieved wasn’t for her. It was to help the next person so they wouldn’t have to go through what Marian Anderson went through. That’s really a selfless way to live and a beautiful heart to have.” Her talent coupled with her humanitarian and civil rights efforts, makes her an iconic figure in the civil right movement.
Anderson became the first African American singer to perform at the White House. She would go on to be the first African American to sing with New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The beauty of her voice helped break down these barriers.
Throughout Black History Month, the Penn Museum welcomes the public to visit their Stories We Wear exhibit, which features a beautiful velvet merlot gown worn by Anderson. The gown is on loan from the National Anderson Museum & Historical Society and was designed by Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes—one of the first Black fashion designers, she dressed the “who’s who” of the 20th century, like Ella Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, on Feb. 13 at 4p, the National Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society will host a presentation and performance of Marian Anderson’s love letters with her husband Orpheus ‘King’ Fisher followed by a reception at the Penn Museum. Titled “The Letters,” this performance will be a dramatic reading of personal correspondence Anderson had with her husband during their 70-year relationship.
“Black History is three and four dimensional. As we talk about our struggles as a people. We can also talk about the love that we have as a people. That’s also part of black history. It’s love. It’s romance,” says Pirtle. She will be reading as Anderson and actor Bryan Anthony Wilson as Fisher.
Pirtle is not only the CEO of the Marian Anderson’s Museum, but an artist herself, who is very passionate about continuing the legacy of Marian Anderson. When she was four years old, her mother got tickets to a benefit for UNICEF at the Academy of Music that Marian Anderson was supporting. “I was breathing her rarefied air,” Pirtle joked.
She would go on to be in the Marian Anderson Scholar Artist Program at 13 years old and now the CEO of her museum. “If we do not preserve our history as women, as African Americans, as people of color, then who is going to do it?”, asked Pirtle.
This collaboration between the National Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society and the Penn Museum is a multi-tiered, year-round partnership, which comes at crucial moment, as the Marian Anderson Museum needs renovations after a flood disaster in August of 2020. The flood destroyed a lot of the building’s structure and many of Marian Andersons’ artifacts including gowns, sheet music, photos, letters, etc need to be restored. To help restore this national landmark, please visit marianandersonhistoricalsociety.weebly.com/
Credit: Source link