Tag Archives: Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson — January 27

Mahalia Jackson

Bible connection

Yes, all who are incensed against you
    shall be ashamed and disgraced;
those who strive against you
    shall be as nothing and shall perish.
You shall seek those who contend with you,
    but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
    shall be as nothing at all.
For I, the Lord your God,
    hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear,
    I will help you.’  Isaiah 41:11-13

Mahalia Jackson singing live in Chicago. She was a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mahalia sang this song at the March on Washinton just before King gave the “I have a dream” speech. (Rod loves her).

All about Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972)

Mahalia Jackson was an American gospel singer. She had a powerful contralto voice. Even more, she had a powerful spirit that led people to name her “The Queen of Gospel.” She became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was known internationally as a singer and civil rights activist. She recorded over 30 albums during her career (mostly for Columbia Records), and her 45 rpm records included a dozen “golds”—million-sellers.

At the March on Washington in 1963, Jackson sang “How I Got Over” and “I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned” in front of 250,000 people. That was the same event in which Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous I Have a Dream speech. She sang to crowds at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and was accompanied by “wonderboy preacher” Al Sharpton. She sang “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” at Dr. King’s funeral after he was assassinated in 1968.

Earlier, in 1956, she met Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. at the National Baptist Convention. A few months later, both King and Abernathy contacted her about coming to Montgomery, Alabama, to sing at a rally to raise money for the bus boycott. Despite death threats, Jackson agreed to sing in Montgomery. By the time she got there, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in Browder v. Gayle that bus segregation was unconstitutional. In Montgomery, the ruling was not yet put into effect, so the bus boycott continued. The concert was a success, but when she returned to the Abernathy’s home, it had been bombed.

Mahalia Jackson once said: “I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free.” Asked about her choice of gospel music, she said, “It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues.”

Jackson’s last years were a mix of heartbreak and great success. Through friends, Jackson met Sigmond Galloway, a former musician in the construction business.  To the surprise of her closest friends and associates, she married him in her living room in 1964. A few weeks later, she had had a heart attack. Her recovery took a full year during which she was unable to tour or record, ultimately losing 50 pounds.

Galloway proved to be unreliable, leaving for long periods during Jackson’s convalescence, then upon his return insisting she was imagining her symptoms. He tried taking over managerial duties from agents and promoters despite being inept. They argued over money; Galloway attempted to strike Jackson on two different occasions, the second one was thwarted when Jackson ducked and he broke his hand hitting a piece of furniture behind her. The marriage dissolved and she announced her intention to divorce. He responded by requesting a jury trial, rare for divorces, in an attempt to embarrass her by publicizing the details of their marital problems. When Galloway’s infidelities were proven in testimony, the judge declined to award him any of Jackson’s assets or properties.

Her doctors cleared her to work and Jackson began recording and performing again. When not on tour, she concentrated her efforts on building two philanthropies: the Mahalia Jackson Foundation which eventually paid tuition for 50 college students, and a nondenominational temple for young people in Chicago to learn gospel music. She worked toward the latter for ten years.  As she organized two large benefit concerts for these causes, she was once more heartbroken upon learning of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1968 and 1969 Jackson toured Europe. In the next few years she had successful tours of the Caribbean, Liberia, Japan, and enjoyed a U.S. State Department sponsored a visit to India. While touring Europe months after India, Jackson became ill in Germany and flew home to Chicago where she was hospitalized. In January 1972, she received surgery to remove a bowel obstruction and died in recovery. Her body was returned to New Orleans where she lay in state at Rivergate Auditorium under a military and police guard while over 60,000 people filed through to view her casket.


Branching out into business, Jackson partnered with comedian Minnie Pearl in a chain of restaurants called Mahalia Jackson’s Chicken Dinners and lent her name to a line of canned foods.

Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story (2022 film)

“Sweet Little Jesus Boy” on the  Ed Sullivan Show (1960)


What do we do with this?

Right now, let yourself be happy. Let the blues be lifted because God is with you.

If you really want to follow Mahalia’s example, sing! Try it right now. If you are in public, or with someone else in your home, do it anyway. That would be even more like her.