In honor of Black History Month, So Divine highlights Gospel legend, Ms. Mahalia Jackson.

Mahalia Jackson is one of the pioneers of gospel music. Best known for her powerhouse voice, Mahalia was born on October 26th, 1911 in New Orleans Louisiana. During her mid teens, Mahalia moved to Chicago and first began singing at the age of 16, with the Greater Salem Baptist Church Choir. She would soon start touring with the Johnson Gospel Singers, and later met Isaac Lanes Grey Hockenhull, who she married in 1936.

In 1947, Mahalia signed with the Apollo label, and a year later recorded the William Herbert Brewster song “Move On Up a Little Higher.” The recording quickly became popular, selling a whopping eight million copies which earned a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998. With the success of the record, she began touring in Europe and had more frequent concert appearances.

In 1950, Mahlia became the first gospel singer to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall for the “Negro Gospel and Religious Music Festival.” Other notable performances include signing at President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball, the March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, and at the funeral for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. where she sang “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”, her signature song.

After years of touring, television, and concert appearances, Mahalia started to suffer from exhaustion. On January 27, 1972 Mahalia Jackson died in Chicago of heart failure and diabetes complications. Gone but not forgotten, her legacy continues to live on today.