Miss Mahalia Jackson
When someone has a unique or special talent she is often expected to use that talent to work for her own self promotion and success. Mahalia Jackson was one of those long recognized as having a talent that would gain her fame and fortune if she desired that. And that was the conflict in her life.
Mahalia was the child of parents who both died at very young ages. She was raised by an assortment of brothers, sisters, half siblings aunts and uncles. Her grandparents had actually been slaves. She dropped out of school earlier than someone probably should, but she knew she wanted to work.
At 16 Mahalia went north to Chicago. She began to be noticed for her tremendous talent in singing. She married, although frankly, marriage was a challenge for her. Here’s what her first husband told her about her aspiring to sing gospel music: “Halie, nobody can touch your voice. You’ve got a future in singing. It’s not right for you to throw it away hollering in churches. Woman, you want to nickel and dime all your life?” Louis Armstrong came calling her name telling her she didn’t need to audition, he knew what she could do.
What Decca records, Louis and even her husband didn’t know was Mahalia had made a vow to God to sing gospel music. She purposed in her mind to never stray from that path. She forsook the riches of this world to serve her Saviour by “hollering in churches”. She forsook the prestige of performing with some of the greats in Jazz. What a great example to all of us! You’re familiar with Jesus’ statement “what does it profit a ‘woman’ to gain the whole world but forfeit her soul?”
Of course her career path did lead to much recognition. I’m not sure that it changed her much. She sang at MLK’s funeral. She was the first African American to perform at Carnegie Hall in 1952. You’ve undoubtedly heard of her. Listen to this beautiful rendition of “How Great Thou Art”. Worship Him as you do and remember one of Black History’s greats!