Mahalia Jackson Cameryn M.& Grace A.

Mahalia Jackson was a powerful singer as she was inspirational. Her puissant voice was audible from a block away. She was known as the "Queen of Gospel."

Singing Amazing Grace
Early Life


"Oh clap your hand, all ye people! Shout unto the Lord with the voice of a trumpet."

Mahalia Jackson was born in New Orleans, on October 26, 1911. She grew up in a shotgun house,narrow rectangular domestic residence, usually no more than about 12 feet wide, with rooms arranged one behind the other and doors at each end of the house, and lived with 13 people. She grew up on a street where blacks and whites got along peacefully. In 1917, Mahalia's aunt had to raise her because her mother died. She was forced to quit school and get a job because of economic circumstances.


"I can't sing a song that doesn't have a message. If it doesn't have the strength, it can't lift you."

Jackson was 16 when she joined her Aunt Hannah on board the Illinois Central Railroad. She moved to Chicago for better opportunities, but all she found was low-paying domestic work during her first several years there. Jackson joined the Greater Salem Baptist Church and began touring with the Johnson Brothers, Chicago's first professional gospel group.

Singing her heart out


"The secret of life, I am told, is keep on moving. You got to have heart, you got to take hold. Keep moving on..."

By 1937, Jackson had made her first set of recordings with Decca Records. Her first side, "God's Gonna Separate the Wheat from the Tares," only saw moderate commercial success.She refused to make a blues record, remembering her pledge to sing only gospel music.As a result, she lost her contract with Decca.

Her dedication to gospel music shows she is loyal to what she pledges to.

She married to her first husband, Ike, Jackson decided to buy real estate and invest in her own business, a beauty shop. High-paying offers for work in the theater rolled in, and though Ike protested, Jackson kept her vow.

Gospel music was becoming popular in Chicago churches, and Jackson was building a community of gospel musicians. Among these was Thomas Dorsey, a talented Atlanta-born African American composer and pianist who had migrated north with a vision for gospel music. He chose Jackson out of all the singers in Chicago to be his partner, and, as a traveling act, the two ushered in the Golden Age of Gospel.


"One of these mornings, I'm going to lay down my cross and get me a crown.... and move on up a little higher."

In 1948, Mahalia Jackson recorded "Move On Up a Little Higher" for Apollo Records, selling one million copies in the United States. A white radio DJ, Studs Terkel, helped to popularize the recording, playing it alongside the hit rhythm and blues records of the day.

Jackson was as captivating as popular blues singers, and gospel's bouncing beat proved just as danceable, even to those who didn't go to church. Jackson began to tour frequently.

She battled racism and segregation, especially in the South, she could collect hundreds of dollars for a single concert. In 1950, she was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall as the headlining act at the First Negro Gospel Music Festival, a monumental event in the history of gospel music.


"Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day ; Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away; change and decay in all around I see; O thou who changest not, abide with me."

Mahalia Jackson found wild mainstream success in the late 50's. She was touring the world and recording several successful albums for Columbia. She could not convince a television network to grant her a show of her own. Jackson did appear as a guest on "white" variety shows including those hosted by Dinah Shore, Steve Allen, and Ed Sullivan.

She also performed at dozens of monumental events, including her first European tour and an appearance at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. Performing at that yield the classic album Live at the Newport 1958. In the same year, Jackson collaborated with popular orchestral arranger Percy Faith to record the hit album The Power and the Glory, and contributed vocals to Duke Ellington's suite, Black, Brown, Beige.

By 1960, Jackson was an international star. Her congregational call- and-response style, combined with her soulful, voluminous voice, made gospel music popular all over the world.

But back home, Jackson's financial success brought racist backlash. She received violent threats from neighbors who did not want an African American woman to live on quiet street in the Chicago suburbs where she had purchased a house.


"Children, I've been buked and I've been scorned, tryn' to make this journey all alone. Children,talk about me sure as you please. Your talk will never drive me down to my knees."

Mahalia Jackson's struggle with racism had urged her to get involved in the Civil Rights movement at its onset. With the Montgomery bus boycott, the movement had begun to unfold quickly. As early as 1956, Civil Rights leaders called on Jackson to lend both her powerful voice and financial support to the rallies, marches, and demonstrations.

Boycott leader Reverend Ralph Abernathy invited Jackson to Montgomery to sing at the first anniversary of Rosa Parks' historic act. Braving hecklers, Klansman, and widespread violence, Jackson rolled into Montgomery on a train. At the station, Abernathy greeted her with another young preacher named Martin Luther King Jr. Though she was afraid for her safety, King's speeches inspired her, and the two became great friends.

Speaking at the Civil Rights Movement.

Fun Fact

Mahalia Jackson sang at Martin Luther King Jr's funeral, showing their great friendship.


"One glad morning, when this life is over, I'll fly away..."

By 1969, with Kennedy, King, and many of her other beneficiaries deceased, Jackson had retired from the political front. She had battled illness for years. Still touring almost to the end, she visited Africa, the Caribbean, Japan, and India, where she met Indira Ghandi, an instant fan. Jackson's final performance was in Germany in 1971. Soon after an operation on her pained abdomen, she died of heart failure in January 1972, at the age of 60.

Hundreds of musicians and politicians attended Jackson's two funerals. In Chicago, Aretha Franklin performed, " Take My Hand, Precious Lord," and Coretta King praised Jackson as being " black and proud and beautiful." Mourning continued at a second funeral in New Orleans, where thousands of hometown admirers gathered to honor the greatest gospel singer of all time, a woman who had conquered poverty, racism, and hardship to win fans and friends all over the world.

Mahalia Jackson

October 26,1911- January 27, 1972

Mahalia Jackson was a beautiful woman. Not just because of her beauty, but because of who she really was. She was brave, inspiring, and courageous. She was so dedicated in what she believed in. She never quit on her music either. She stuck with what her pledge was, singing gospel. She used her legendary vocals and strong influence for more than just her singing career.

"Black and Proud and Beautiful"

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