Not that anyone needed a TV show to confirm her place in the country’s artistic and cultural history, but the legendary singer Marian Anderson will soon join the ranks of American Masters.

The PBS show, produced by New York’s WNET/Thirteen, announced that Rita Coburn (Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise) will direct a film biography of the South Philadelphia-born Anderson, who was affectionately known as both “the Lady from Philadelphia” and — long before Princess Diana — as “the People’s Princess.”

The documentary, tentatively titled Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands, is to be made with access to the Marian Anderson estate and “will explore the life, career, art, and legacy of the singer of classical music and spirituals,” according to the announcement.

“Best known for her performance at the legendary Freedom Concert on April 9, 1939, Anderson, in a bold protest against racial intolerance, sang before a diverse crowd on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., after being denied use of Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution," the announcement continues. "In that moment, Anderson — despite being a fiercely private person — transformed into a symbol for the nascent civil rights movement, even inspiring a 10-year-old Martin Luther King Jr., who listened on the radio.”

Rita Coburn will direct a film biography of Philadelphia-born legend Marian Anderson for PBS' "American Masters."
CHRISTOPHER HOWARD
Rita Coburn will direct a film biography of Philadelphia-born legend Marian Anderson for PBS' "American Masters."

Said director Coburn, “As an African American female director, I am honored to continue Marian Anderson’s legacy at a time when our culture needs to hear the tonality of resilience, power, beauty, voice, and courage.”

Another film about Anderson, Once in a Hundred Years: The Life and Legacy of Marian Anderson, premiered in February 2019 at the Kimmel Center.

In Philadelphia, Anderson, who died in 1993 at age 96, has lived on in the Marian Anderson Award, given annually to artists who have had a positive impact on society. Past winners include Dionne Warwick, Maya Angelou, Harry Belafonte, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Gere, Norman Lear, and, in 2019, Kool and the Gang.

Her former home at 762 S. Martin St. — Marian Anderson Way — houses a museum and is on the National Register of Historic Places.