Sculpture of Iconic Contralto Marian Anderson in Philadelphia to Move Forward

By Nicolas Quiroga

Historic contralto Marian Anderson, an icon of the anti-racist struggle, will have an honorary statue in her hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The monument, which will be located at the Academy of Music, will be the first monument in the city dedicated to a black woman. 

“From a young age, I was led to believe that if I put my heart, mind, and talent to a task, anything would be possible,” said Jillian Patricia Pirtle, CEO of the National Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society in an article on “When you’re a young child, you need examples of that and Marian Anderson was one of those.”

Pirtle, alongside a team of volunteers, has raised $200,000 for the Marian Anderson Memorial State Fund. The statue is expected to cost between $500,000 and $700,000.

Anderson, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 27, 1897, died on April 8, 1993 and went on to make history as the first Black artist to sing a leading role at the Metropolitan Opera. She also famously performed a concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial after being denied an opportunity to appear at Constitution Hall because she was Black. 

Over the next several decades of her life, Anderson’s stature only grew. In 1961 she performed the national anthem at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Two years later, President Kennedy honored the singer with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After retiring from performing in 1965, Anderson retired to a life on her farm in Connecticut. In 1991, the music world honored her with a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.