Marking Pennsylvania History
A Sense of the Place
Marian Anderson certainly shaped American music, but what shaped Marian Anderson? A visit to her rowhouse community in South Philadelphia, a place not too different today from what it was like in the mid-1920s, provides context, a snapshot, and above all, a sense of place about the artist whose work is so American and so 20th century that it almost defies identification with a specific time and place.
Anderson's family home at 762 South Martin Street is in a neighborhood just southwest of Center City Philadelphia. Her family had lived here for nearly a century when, in the midst of her career, after Anderson had become the first African-American concert artist to record spirituals for RCA Victor, she decided to make her community of origin her lifetime home.
How could this community of rowhouses and the nearby Union Baptist Church where Anderson sang as a child provide her with the strength and commitment needed to excel and inspire? Fifteen years later, on Easter Sunday 1939, Anderson sang before 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. How did family, home, and community serve this event, which has been called "the tactical beginning of the modern civil rights movement? How did family, home, and community serve this remarkable artist?
Only a visit to where family and home converged with community can one begin to explore these roles and relationships.
- Kenneth FInkel, Executive Director of WHYY's Arts & Culture Service
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