Hundreds of Aretha Franklin fans gathered Tuesday morning to honor the late soul icon, who died from pancreatic cancer earlier this month at age 76. A public visitation began Tuesday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Franklin’s hometown of Detroit, Michigan.
The singer’s body was displayed wearing a “red, lace-trimmed ruffled suit and crimson satin pumps” inside a gold casket, Detroit Free Press reports. She arrived to the museum in a white LaSalle car, as people lined the nearby streets.
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Franklin’s red clothing was meant to symbolize her membership in the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Her niece, Sabrina Owens told The Associated Press that the singer’s outfit looked like something she would have worn onstage and “would have selected for herself.” Owens added that she and others who planned the viewing wanted to offer Franklin a proper farewell that “would match her legacy.”
Some fans at the museum reportedly slept on the sidewalk overnight, hoping to be the first visitors. Many of those gathered are from Detroit, though some traveled from as far as Las Vegas, Nevada and Miami, Florida, the AP reports.
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The visitation runs until 9 p.m. local time, with another day scheduled for Wednesday. After Tuesday’s viewing, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. will conduct a final rites ceremony for its own members and Franklin’s family.
After Franklin’s August 16th death, numerous friends, collaborators and admirers spoke about the singer’s immeasurable legacy. Smokey Robinson, who knew the vocalist since she was eight years old, told Rolling Stone that Franklin will be remembered as “one of the greatest singers to ever open their mouths.” He added, “There are children who haven’t even been born yet who are going to be made aware of Aretha Franklin, if only through her music. But she was an activist also; in the Civil Rights movement, she worked very closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. So she did a lot of things, man. But she will be known through her music by kids who haven’t even been born yet.”