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Black History Month

History-makers of Southeast Louisiana

Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson with Eureka Brass Band at the first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 1970

Photo by Michael P. Smith


Mahalia Jackson (1911 - 1972)

Mahalia Jackson is widely considered the best and most influential gospel singer in history. She grew up in the Carrollton neighborhood of New Orleans, where she began singing in her church. She moved to Chicago at age 16 and began touring with a gospel group, the Johnson Gospel Singers. During her history-making career, Mahalia Jackson was the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall (1952) and at Newport Jazz Festival (1958). She also performed at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961, at the March on Washington in 1963, and at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was also a friend.  

"A voice like this one comes not once in a century, but once in a millennium." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Legacy and awards:


  • The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences created the Gospel Music category for Jackson, making her the first gospel music artist to win the prestigious Grammy Award
  • The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, inducted 2008
  • Inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois
  • Awarded the Order of Lincoln, by Governor of Illinois in 1967, the state’s highest honor.
  • 1976    Grammy, Best Soul Gospel Performance for "How I Got Over"
  • 1972    Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 1962    Grammy, Best Gospel Or Other Religious Recording, "Great Songs of Love and Faith"
  • 1961    Grammy, Best Gospel or Religious Recording, "Every Time I Feel the Spirit"
  • 1978    Gospel Music Hall of Fame, Inducted
  • 1988    Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • 1997    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Inducted as an "Early Influence"
  • 1998    U.S. Postal Service issued Mahalia Jackson commemorative postage stamp
  • 2008    Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, Inducted

Grammy Hall of Fame songs -- This distinction was created to honor recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old.

1947    "Move On Up a Little Higher"     Gospel (single)    Apollo        1998

1958    "His Eye Is on the Sparrow"        Gospel (single)    Columbia    2010

1956    "Precious Lord, Take My Hand"   Gospel (single)    Columbia    2012


(LISTEN)  “Mahalia Jackson: Voice Of The Civil Rights Movement,” ​a National Public Radio feature




Sandmel, Ben "Mahalia Jackson" Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 5 Jan 2017. Web. 29 Jan 2018.

Mahalia Jackson and Louis Armstrong perform "Just A Closer Walk With Thee." Recorded at Newport Jazz Festival, July 10, 1970. From Music Vault via YouTube.


The books listed below are available for you at Sims Memorial Library.