Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Mahalia Jackson: Gospel Singer and Civil Rights Champion

Mahalia Jackson: Gospel Singer and Civil Rights Champion

Montrew Dunham
Illustrator:  Cathy Morrison 
For ages 9 to 12
Patria Press, Inc, 2003   ISBN: 978-1882859382

From the time when she was very young Mahalia had a gift. She could sing like an angel and it set her a little bit apart from her family; it made her special. Her family was poor, living in Mississippi at a time when black people were discriminated against. It was thought that blacks were only capable of serving white people as servants. There were very few opportunities open to families like the Jacksons, and it was very hard to break out of the prison that racism had built around them.

When her mother died Mahalia and her brother went to live with an aunt, and Mahalia was expected to work hard around the house. She had good times too though, and Mahalia's love of music gave her many happy moments. This same love opened a door for Mahalia when she grew up. The richness of her voice, and her talent in singing gospel songs, was enough to make people want to stop and listen. By 1927, when she was still very young, Mahalia began her singing career. Even though many opportunities and offers arose, Mahalia insisted that she was going stick to "singing my own way," and her way was to sing gospel.

Probably the highlight of Mahalia's career was the day, on august 26th 1963, when she sang in Washington D.C at a civil rights march. After her song, her friend Martin Luther King was going to speak. It was Mahalia who told her friend "Tell them about your dream, Martin! Tell them about your dream!" which prompted him to give a speech that truly shook the world and that is still talked about today.

The author of this excellent chapter book explores the life of Mahalia Jackson in detail. Her attention to detail makes it possible for us to see Mahalia running along the levee when she was little, and to hear the music she loved so much and sang so beautifully.

This book is a 2004 Independent Publisher Award Finalist, and it is one of the titles in an excellent series of biographies.