We’re celebrating black heroes who made history, and I want to introduce you to Mahalia Jackson, who was born on October 26, 1911 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was known as “the Queen of Gospel” and honored as one of the greatest musical figures in U.S. history.
Jackson began singing when she was four years old at Mount Moriah Baptist Church. She moved to Chicago at 16 and joined the Greater Salem Baptist Church. She sang with the Johnson Gospel Singers for a few years before working on solo projects with the gospel composer Thomas A. Dorsey.
Jackson was raised in a devout Christian home, but her style was influenced by the blues. In 1947, her song “Move On Up a Little Higher” sold millions of copies and became the highest selling gospel single in history. From there, Jackson successfully toured nationally and internationally, and even had her own gospel program on television.
Jackson was also active in the Civil Rights movement. She sung at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the March on Washington D.C. in 1963 (right before the “I Have a Dream” speech), and at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.
There is a chapter in “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know” dedicated to her, and she should be celebrated.