City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson visited the historic National Marian Anderson Museum on Wednesday afternoon to present a $5,000 check to the museum’s CEO, Jillian Patricia Pirtle. The money comes at a critical time for the institution. Not only has the pandemic taken away the museum’s revenue strain, but the building suffered severe damage from burst pipes in the basement, which left the building flooded with three and a half feet of standing water.
“We’ve felt [the financial] sting at the Marian Anderson Museum from being closed [since] March,” said Pirtle. “We are also thankful today for the leadership of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, as he stands with us so that we can try to continue to restore, rebuild, replace and preserve our great Marian Anderson’s legacy.”
The house, which has been declared a historic landmark by the state of Pennsylvania and the United States Department of the Interior, was Anderson’s place of residence from 1924 until she got married in 1943, when she ultimately moved to Connecticut with her new husband. However, she continued to own the property until her death in 1993 at age 96.
Damage from the burst pipe caused about $40,000 to $44,000 worth of needed repairs. Pirtle said the museum has raised about half of that since a GoFundMe was created over the summer, including the $5,000 provided by Johnson’s office on Wednesday. Johnson said another $5,000 will be given at a later date – hopefully sometime before the end of 2021 – that will come from City Council’s activities fund.
Anderson is recognized for using her status as a famous touring musician in the early- to mid-20th century to raise awareness for civil rights causes. Throughout her career, she performed at the White House and the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The concert at the Lincoln Memorial happened in its location because Anderson was denied use of Constitution Hall, which at the time had a policy forbidding Blacks from performing on its stage.
“The late Marian Anderson is one of the most famous Philadelphians in history and played a pivotal role in American history during the civil rights movement and throughout her life,” Johnson said. “The Marian Anderson Museum is an important cultural institution in Philadelphia, and I am committed to finding ways to help it survive and thrive for years to come.”
“Our great Marian Anderson is one of the most important historical figures of the 20th century because of her groundbreaking exceptional music artistry and her humanitarianism,” said Pirtle. “Ms. Anderson’s historical legacy is even more relevant today. We want to thank Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson for his continued support. It’s essential to support the National Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society’s programming as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and our flood emergency. Ms. Anderson did so much for Philadelphia, the nation and the world and now this historical landmark needs help.”