Marian Anderson statue will grace Broad Street

The proposed location of the Marian Anderson Memorial Statue on the front steps of the Academy of Music on South Broad Street. (Contributed Photo)
The proposed location of the Marian Anderson Memorial Statue on the front steps of the Academy of Music on South Broad Street. (Contributed Photo)

The Avenue of the Arts will forever feature one of South Philly’s finest.

Plans will move forward to erect a statue of Marian Anderson on the front steps of the Academy of Music on Broad Street to celebrate one of the city’s most beautiful and powerful voices. 

Anderson was not only a famous opera singer, but one of the most iconic and influential figures in both local and American history, breaking the color barrier as the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera and on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. She toured the world with her music and serenaded U.S. presidents at their inaugurations.

She was born in South Philadelphia and lived at 762 S. Martin Street in the Graduate Hospital Neighborhood. Her house was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 2011 and is the home of the Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society.

“Marian Anderson made a profound impact on the world, far beyond her humble beginnings in South Philadelphia,” said Philadelphia City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, who is also a South Philly native. “Having the cultural treasures that are the National Marian Anderson Museum and the Academy of Music in my Council District is a blessing. A statue honoring Ms. Anderson in her hometown is long overdue and the planned Marian Anderson heritage trail throughout South Philadelphia will bring her legacy to life for an entire new generation of Philadelphians and tourists alike. I am proud to honor her legacy today.”

Photo courtesy of the Marian Anderson Museum.

A task force from the region’s cultural, academic, civic and governmental community has been meeting to commemorate Anderson’s legacy. The Philadelphia Foundation set up a memorial fund to raise money for the statue. So far, $300,000 has been raised.

“The community has responded so generously to this project,” said Jim McClelland, chair of the Task Force Fundraising Committee. “To date, we have raised more than $300,000. We anticipate the total fundraising need to approach $1.4 million for the statue and ancillary needs, including signage and the potential cultural heritage trail through South Philadelphia. We encourage anyone who is interested in preserving the legacy of Marian Anderson to contribute to our fundraising efforts.”

Donations can be made by going to the “Donate Now” section of the Philadelphia Foundation website at, and select the “Marian Anderson Memorial Fund” from the dropdown menu under “Select Cause”.

Marian Anderson (1897-1993) African American contralto singing at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, Easter Sunday, 1939.
Photo Courtesy of World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

The announcement of the statue was celebrated at the Academy of Music on Aug. 26 and the project will now shift into the planning and design phase, working with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Moore College of Art and Design, the Barnes Foundation, and the University of the Arts, as well as various neighborhood groups, to source design ideas and potential artists for creation of the statue.

An artist and a design is expected to be chosen by Feb. 27, which coincides with Anderson’s 125th birthday.

“This has been a dream twenty-five years in the making,” said Jillian Patricia Pirtle, CEO of the National Marian Anderson Historical Society and Museum. “It is our sincere hope that his great monument will be a light to and support for her heartbeat and legacy, which is the National Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society and our treasured programming.”