80 years later, Philly holds tribute to Marian Anderson

Jillian Patricia Pirtle sings the patriotic medly made famous by Marian Anderson 80 years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The tribute was hosted by the National Park Service at the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Jillian Patricia Pirtle sings the patriotic medly made famous by Marian Anderson 80 years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The tribute was hosted by the National Park Service at the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The legacy of Marian Anderson was celebrated Friday in Philadelphia in anticipation of the 80th anniversary of the African American opera singer’s historic Easter Sunday concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In April 1939, the internationally recognized classical singer was denied permission to perform in Constitution Hall in Washington by the Daughters of the American Revolution because she was black.

A subsequent outdoor concert hastily arranged by first lady Eleanor Roosevelt was broadcast to millions of listeners over the radio.

During a memorial event at Independence National Historical Park Friday, U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, said the South Philadelphia-born Anderson is one of his heroes.

“Not only for her tremendous talent, but she stood up to segregation and racism time and time again,” Evans said. “She set a great example – especially for someone like myself – that still shines today.”

The event in the Visitor Center of Independence Mall also featured singers from the Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society. The fur coat Anderson wore that day, April 9, 1939, was on display.

The CEO of that group, Jillian Patricia Pirtle, recited from “When Marian Sang”:

“On that cold Easter morn, a nation’s hate, separatism and fears were hushed in a silence by the glory of the music that poured from the lips and the heart and the soul of Marian.”

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