The Mother Of Gospel Music: Mahalia Jackson

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Early Life

Mahalia Jackson was born on October 26, 1911, to John A. Jackson, a barber and baptist minister, and Charity Clark, a maid and laundress in Uptown New Orleans. She had four brothers and sisters. Her mother died in 1917, leaving her stern Aunt Mahala “Duke” Clark-Paul to raise her. A reverent Christian and strict believer of the word, Aunt Duke wouldn’t allow secular music in her household. Her cousin Fred would sneak in records that would influence the young Mahalia’s already powerful voice. Her stylings were influenced by the inherent blues and soul that New Orleans was infused with, Bessie Smith, Ida Cox and Ma Rainey. She began singing at Mount Mariah Baptist Church where she was a prominent member of the junior choir.

(Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

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