Anderson, a South of South native, broke color barriers, becoming the first African-American to perform at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1935 and the White House the following year.
When the Daughters of American Revolution refused her presence at Constitution Hall, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes invited the contralto to perform at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday in ’39. About 75,000 spectators gathered for what was the Washington D.C. location’s biggest crowd to date. Four years later, the group welcomed her to its stage. Anderson died in Portland, Ore. in 1993 due to congestive heart failure after suffering a stroke.
A recreation center bearing her name at 744 S. 17th St. that was dedicated to the graduate of South Philadelphia High School for Girls in ’54 continues to serve neighborhood youths while a historical society commemorates her childhood home at 762 S. Martin St., and reflects back on her singing days at Union Baptist Church and her career.
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The South Philadelphia Walk of Fame 2013 inductees