Henry Ossawa Tanner was an American artist and the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim.
Henry Ossawa Tanner was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the first of seven children. His middle name commemorated the struggle at Osawatomie between pro- and anti-slavery partisans.
His father Benjamin Tucker Tanner (1835-1923) was a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent black denomination in the United States. His mother Sarah Tanner was born into slavery in Virginia but had escaped to the North via the Underground Railroad.
Being educated at Avery College and Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, he developed a literary career. In addition, he was a political activist.
This rowhouse was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
Today, ongoing gentrification threatens to erase the area’s Black cultural legacy and heritage landmarks such as the Tanner House, which is already seriously deteriorated and in danger of collapsing.
The Friends of the Tanner House—a Black-led, multi-generational coalition of community advocates formed in 2021 to champion the site’s preservation and reuse—is currently working to acquire the property and reimagine the house’s future. Together with the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and other community partners, the Friends will create a long-term stewardship plan that honors the legacy of this a place and reflects the powerful impact of Black heritage, innovation, and achievement.
The Henry Ossawa Tanner House was placed on the America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places List for 2023.