Penn Museum Honors Marian Anderson With February Events

By Chris Ruel

For the entirety of February 2022, The Penn Museum, in partnership with National Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society, honors the first Black woman to perform with the Metropolitan Opera, contralto Marian Anderson.

Anderson performed at the Met in January 1955 and became a crucial figure within the civil rights movement. The events taking place throughout the month provide the public with opportunities to deepen their appreciation of the groundbreaking artist.

Beginning on Feb. 7, the Penn Museum’s virtual book club, Between the Lines, will read and discuss Anderson’s “My Lord, What a Morning: An Autobiography.”

On Feb. 13, the National Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society will host a reading of “The Letters,” correspondence between Anderson and her husband that document their 70-year love affair. The Penn Museum will hold the event at the Harrison Auditorium and music will accompany the reading.

Anderson’s velvet merlot gown is currently on view through June 12, 2022, as a part of “The Stories We Wear” exhibition. Anderson wore the gown throughout her career and it was likely designed by one of the first Black fashion designers, Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes. Ella Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker wore Valdes’ designs.

“As one of the most important historical figures of the 20th century for her exceptional music artistry and her humanitarianism, Marian Anderson’s legacy is even more relevant and paramount in our nation’s current state,” Jillian Patricia Pirtle, CEO of the National Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society said in an official press statement.

February 27 marks the singer’s 125th birthday.