Black Church Figures You Should Know - Mahalia Jackson

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) – The Queen of Gospel


It is seldom that you hear of a person that has been familiar with American music for any significant amount of time and has not at least heard of Mahalia Jackson. Known as the Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson has been acclaimed as one of the greatest musical figures in United States history.

Born October 26, 1911 in New Orleans, LA, Jackson began singing as a child at Mt. Moriah Baptist church where her father, Johnny, was pastor. Living in the heart of the birthplace of Jazz music, Mahalia was influenced by many styles and artists including Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson and others. At 16 she joined the Great Northern Migration and moved to Chicago where she worked as a laundress. Immediately her talent was recognized and in 1934 she recorded her first single, “God’s Gonna Separate the Wheat from the Tares”.

In 1936, she marred IssacHockenhull who urged her to sing popular music but she refused. She continued to sing in churches all over the country. In 1937 she connected with the renown gospel composer Thomas A. Dorsey who served as her musical advisor and accompanist. In 1947, after joining Apollo Records, she recorded what was the best-selling Gospel song of all time, “Move On Up a Little Higher.

In addition to her international fame and influence of gospel music, Jackson was also a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. Befriended to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, she sang at the March on Washington at Dr. King’s request. After singing at Dr. King’s funeral she withdrew from public political activities.

Several hospitalizations forced Mahalia to give up singing abroad. Her final concert was in Munich, Germany in 1971. She succumbed to a heart attack on January 27, 1972. Her legendary influence still lives on today as she is a foundational pillar in music everywhere, especially gospel music.

For more information visit:

Black History Now-Mahalia Jackson – Mahalia Jackson