Verizon Hall renamed for iconic singer, Philly native Marian Anderson

A breaker of racial barriers and a Philadelphia native, singer Marian Anderson made history in 1939 when she performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after being denied access to the DAR Constitution Concert Hall in Washington D.C.

Saturday, the Verizon name is off the concert hall as the newly named Marian Anderson Hall, the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra, held its first concert.

Mayor Cherelle Parker, on hand for the event, stated, "I am beaming with pride and the estrogen is popping through my skin!"

A great day for Philadelphia as the name and spirit of the legendary artist and civil rights activist now graces one of Philly’s most vital and artistic assets.

"The first major concert venue in the world to honor Marian Anderson 85 years after she was barred from performing at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. because of her race," Philadelphia Orchestra and Ensemble Arts President and CEO, Matias Tarnopolsky, said.

Something not often seen as an artists name replacing a corporation’s name, but Marian Anderson isn’t just any artist. She was born in Philadelphia and, in 1955, she became the first Black singer to appear at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. She first sang at the Academy of Music – the original home of the Philadelphia Orchestra – at just 21 years old, then made her Philadelphia Orchestra debut 19 years later.

Family member of Anderson, Ginette DePreist, remarked, "We all know that being a Philadelphian means the world to Philadelphia and I think she’d probably think, if she had been alive, this is the most precious reward."

Anderson also sang at the Lincoln Memorial as part of the March on Washington, reflecting the dedication to civil rights activism she displayed her entire life.

Tarnopolsky continued, "Right here we will make very visible and very real our commitment to the ideals by which an iconic artisan lives a life, equity, justice, freedom and the belief that the arts are for everyone."

The orchestra’s auditorium, in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts was known as Verizon Hall since 1999. That’s until Richard Worley and Leslie Miller donated $25 million for the renaming.

"She was an extraordinary talent who radiated grace and dignity," Worley said. "Unfortunately, throughout her life, she was forced to struggle mightily with the pervasive racism that dominated our society. But she didn't give up. She didn't let it silence her. Her bravery and grit are shining examples of perseverance.

Along with the renaming, Mayor Parker presented a posthumous Liberty Bell to Anderson. And, June 8th, 2024 was also marked as Marian Anderson Day in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. "It is one thing to get a round of applause for your work, but it is another to have your legacy cemented and history."

"Little Black girls, little brown boys will learn who Marian Anderson is, they will learn about her life, her legacy," Philadelphia City Council President Kenyatta Johnson stated.