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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Mahalia Jackson -- Black History Month Blog Series and Giveaway


This post is part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs' Black History Month Blog Hop and Giveaway. More details below. 

While reading the books written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s relatives this year I kept seeing mention of Mahalia Jackson. I had read the book Martin & Mahalia by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney, but did not really see the connection to them besides she was a gospel singer and he was a preacher.



Reading stories about how Martin asked Mahalia to get the people in Washington in the right frame of mind for his speech and her whispering to him to tell them about his dream, made me want to learn more. Of course with any musician one of the first things I do is look for a CD at the library so we can hear the music.




Now I have to admit that Hazel and listened to Mahalia Jackson any time we were in the car for weeks. We loved the CD! Here is a sample from Youtube for you to hear.


Next I looked for some books about Mahalia Jackson. There are many out there, but most were not ones Hazel would enjoy. They are written for older children. I kept one of them, Mahalia: A Life in Gospel Music by Roxane Orgill. I will use this book for some reference and as a source for this post.


 Then I saw a picture book about Mahalia. It was coming out at the beginning of the month. Luckily I was able to get it on Friday from our library and was able to read it to Hazel last night. It is Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens by Nina Nolan. These two books are the resources for this post.



Mahalia Jackson was born poor. She was born in 1911 in New Orleans. She lived with her mother, brother, aunts and cousins in a three room house until her mother died when she was six. At her mother's funeral her Aunt Duke insisted that she would keep the children. Aunt Duke was a hard guardian. She sent Mahalia's older brother to find a job and had Mahalia cleaning the house by herself. She checked her work including a white glove test for her dusting. Mahalia survived by singing. She loved singing in church and loved gospel music. Going to school was spotty for Mahalia. If there was a lot of housework her aunt kept her home. Aunt Duke pulled Mahalia from school in the middle of fourth grade to stay home and care for her younger cousins (Aunt Duke's son moved to Kansas City and left his two babies behind). As Mahalia grew older she worked as a maid and saved her money in hopes of moving to Chicago. Then her Aunt Hannah came to visit when Mahalia was sixteen and offered to bring Mahalia back to Chicago with her. Mahalia went. There she found a new church to sing in and a school. Eventually Aunt Hannah became sick and Mahalia left school to care for her. Then her grandfather had a heartache. Mahalia made a deal with God that if her grandfather lived she would not go into a nightclub again. He lived and she kept her word even though many people told her she would not have to be a maid if she sang in a nightclub.


Mahalia Jackson
Mahalia Jackson April 1962
by Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Mahalia got in her car and drove south singing in various churches sometimes for money now. She wanted to share God's message with anyone who she could. Soon a record company heard her and she made her first album. Then the Civil Rights Movement was beginning. The Bus Boycott in Montgomery was going on and Reverend Ralph Abernathy asked Mahalia to come to Montgomery to sing in the celebration of the Supreme Court decision and mark the one year anniversary of Rosa Parks arrest. She was honored to come and refused money from the walking people. She and her pianist, Mildred, were a bit nervous as they heard the stories of houses being bombed and the violence. Mahalia prayed to God for their safety. It was in Montgomery that she first met and heard Dr. King speech. She was blown away with his preaching. She saw Martin as a Black Moses sent from God to save his people again. When he asked her to sing at the March in Washington she was happy to do it.



March-on-washington-jobs-freedom-program
By Unnamed organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Mahalia headed straight for the stage at the Lincoln Memorial and watched as the marchers arrived. She listened to the speeches and then performed. Then it came time for Martin to be introduced. It is reported she leaned forward and told him to tell them about his dream. And of course we all know he gave his "I Have a Dream" speech that day.
Mahalia Jackson 1962, van Vechten, LC-USZ62-91314
Mahalia Jackson 1962 by Carl Van Vechten
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Martin soon called to ask her to come sing in Memphis, Tennessee, where the garbage collectors were striking. She was getting ready to go when she turned on the television and saw that Martin had been shot.  She headed to Alabama to be with his family. She sang at his funeral.



Mahalia Jackson chose to share her talent with the world. She had a beautiful voice and used it to spread the gospel and help motivate the Civil Rights Movement. Of course there is so much more to her life story, but this is all I am going to share here. She was a leader in her own way and left a mark on the world.


Black History Month 2015 | Multicultural Kid Blogs

This post is part of the Black History Month series on Multicultural Kid Blogs. Be sure to visit the main page for the full schedule and to link up your own posts about sharing Black History Month with kids! And of course, don't forget to enter our amazing giveaway:

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