Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972), “The Queen of Gospel” and civil rights activist, came to Chicago from Louisiana as a teen to study nursing. In Chicago, she joined the Greater Salem Baptist Church where she performed with the Johnson Gospel Singers. Later, touring with the famous gospel composer Thomas Dorsey, Jackson’s fame grew across the country. Recordings followed, including “Move On Up a Little Higher” which became the highest selling gospel single in history. After touring Europe in 1952, Jackson returned to the US to star in her own gospel radio show.
In the late 1950’s, Jackson lent her voice and financial support to the civil rights movement. The 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom was the first of many times that Jackson appeared with Dr. Martin Luther King. Her songs at Selma and at the March on Washington inspired and gave strength to the crowds. Her songs at the funeral of Dr. King comforted his family and followers.
Why this stop? The Red Line 69th Street stop is just a few blocks from the Greater Salem Baptist Church.
Listen to Mahalia Jackson sing at a Chicago church, watch Dr. King’s reaction to hearing her voice.