Happy birthday Mahalia Jackson!


Mahalia Jackson (October 26, 1911--January 27, 1972) was an American gospel singer. She is remembered as one of the preeminent voices of the Civil Rights Movement.

17121-169110Jackson was born Mahala Jackson in New Orleans, Louisiana to Charity Clark and John A. Jackson. She grew up in a house with twelve of her family members. After her mother died, she was raised by her Aunt Duke, who was very strict and who physically abused her.

She began her singing career at Mount Mariah Baptist Church. When she was 16 years old, she moved to Chicago with her family. After performing just one song, "Hand Me Down My Silver Trumpet, Gabriel," she was invited to join the Greater Salem Baptist Church Choir. She began to work with gospel composer Thomas A. Dorsey, touring the United States.

Jackson was adamant about never singing secular music, to the extent that the commitment is said to have ended her marriage to Isaac Hockenhull (from 1936 to 1941) when he tried to pressure her into it.

Allegedly, she began recording in the early 1930s, but the first recordings still accessible are what she recorded for Decca Coral Label in 1937. These consisted of "God's Gonna Separate The Wheat From The Tares", "My Lord", "Keep Me Everyday", and "God Shall Wipe All Tears Away."

But it wasn't until she signed with Apollo Records in 1947 that she really hit her stride. She released "Move On Up A Litte Higher," selling eight million copies. The song was honored in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.



She became hugely successful, selling out concert halls internationally. She became the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall, and she did so to a racially integrated audience. Some gospel purists criticized Jackson for clapping and stomping during her performances, saying she was bringing jazz into church.



Jackson was a major player in the Civil Rights movement, appearing regularly at rallies. She sang at the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech (below). She also sang at his funeral after he was assassinated.


Since 1997, she has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Louisiana Hall of Fame. She won numerous Grammys during her career.


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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Sunday, 26 October 2014
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