Best Known For
20th century recording artist Mahalia Jackson, known as the Queen of Gospel, is revered as one of the greatest musical figures in U.S. history.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
Born on October 26, 1911, in New Orleans, Louisiana,
"Gospel music is nothing but singing of good tidings -- spreading the good news. It will last as long as any music because it is sung straight from the human heart."
Mahalia Jackson started singing as a child at Mount Moriah Baptist Church and went on to become one of the most revered gospel figures in the U.S. Her recording of “Move On Up a Little Higher” was a major hit and she subsequently became an international figure for music lovers from a variety of backgrounds. She worked with artists like Duke Ellington and Thomas A. Dorsey and also sang at the 1963 March on Washington at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She died on January 27, 1972.
Born on October 26, 1911, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Charity and Johnny Jackson, Mahalia Jackson became one of gospel music’s all-time greats, known for her rich, powerful voice that cultivated a global following. The young Mahalia grew up in a Pitt Street shack and started singing at 4 years old in the Mount Moriah Baptist Church.
Brought up in a devout Christian family, Jackson still found herself influenced by the secular sounds of blues artists like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. Jackson’s sanctified style of performance would also rely upon freer movement and rhythm when contrasted to the styles seen in more conservative congregations.
After moving to Chicago as a teen with the aim of studying nursing, Mahalia Jackson joined the Greater Salem Baptist Church and soon became a member of the Johnson Gospel Singers. She performed with the group for a number of years. Jackson then started working with Thomas A. Dorsey, a gospel composer; the two performed around the U.S., further cultivating an audience for Jackson. She also took on a number of jobs -- working as a laundress, beautician and flower shop owner for example -- before her musical career went into the stratosphere. She wed Isaac Hockenhull in 1936, with the two later divorcing.
While she made some recordings in the 1930s, Mahalia Jackson tasted major success with "Move On Up a Little Higher" in 1947, which sold millions of copies and became the highest selling gospel single in history. She became more in demand, making radio and television appearances and going on tour, eventually performing in Carnegie Hall on October 4, 1950 to a racially integrated audience. Jackson also had a successful 1952 tour abroad in Europe, and she was especially popular in France and Norway. She had her own gospel program on the CBS television network in 1954 and scored a pop hit with "Rusty Old Halo."
In 1956, Jackson made her debut on The Ed Sullivan Show and in 1958 appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, performing with Duke Ellington and his band. Ellington and Jackson worked together on an album released the same year under Columbia Records titled Black, Brown and Beige. Future Columbia recordings from Jackson included The Power and the Glory (1960), Silent Night: Songs for Christmas (1962) and Mahalia (1965).
In 1959, Jackson appeared in the film Imitation of Life. By the end of the decade, much of Jackson’s work featured crossover production styles; she was an international figure, with a performance itinerary that included singing at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.
profile name: Mahalia Jackson profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
In the 1920s, women like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith were the first—and for a while, the only—artists to record the blues. American women of this era made great strides toward gaining equality and basic human rights for themselves and others in society, including attaining the right to vote and working toward social justice. The 20th century was a wide-open opportunity for women to embrace the modern world, outside of the traditional bounds of the home.
Foremothers of Rock 10 people in this group
Originally called Toast of the Town, The Ed Sullivan Show ran from 1948-1971 on CBS and was an American staple in the 50s and 60s. The American variety show featured the Who's Who of celebritydom over the decades, including Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Tony Bennett, Carol Channing, Lucille Ball, The Jackson 5, and The Doors.
The Ed Sullivan Show Guests 215 people in this group
Despite all sorts of institutional obstacles, women have continued to reach stratospheric levels of success in a full gamut of professional pursuits, whether as scientists, scribes, educators, governmental leaders, athletes, designers, film directors or performers. Learn more about the plethora of triumphs obtained by our group of trailblazers.
Visit Biography.com's Women's History group to explore more biographies, photos and videos of some the world's most fascinating women.
Groundbreaking Women 71 people in this group