Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972)

U.S. gospel singer. As a child, Jackson sang in the choir of the New Orleans church where her father preached. She learned sacred songs but was also exposed to blues recordings by Bessie Smith and Ida Cox. In Chicago she worked at odd jobs while singing with a gospel touring quintet, and opened several small businesses. Her warm, powerful voice first came to wide public attention in the 1930s, when she participated in a cross-county tour singing such songs as “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Closely associated with Thomas A. Dorsey, she sang many of his songs. “Move on up a Little Higher” (1948) sold over a million copies, and she became one of the best-selling singers of the 1950s and ‘60s. She first appeared at Carnegie Hall in 1950. Active in the civil-rights movement from 1955, she sang at the epochal 1963 civil-rights march in Washington.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

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