How Mardi Gras Helped Make Mahalia Jackson a Political Activist

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Gospel music legend and pioneer Mahalia Jackson is often associated with Chicago, where she moved as a teenager and rose to prominence, but her roots are in New Orleans. It’s there that the “Queen of Gospel” was born, and raised in a “shotgun shack of a New Orleans house,” a three-room dwelling that housed thirteen people and a dog. Her Crescent City childhood also helped shape Jackson’s political consciousness. Below is a short excerpt from “On Conjuring Mahalia: Mahalia Jackson, New Orleans, and the Sanctified Swing,” an article by Johari Jabir that appeared in American Quarterly in September 2009 (registration required):

Mahalia Jackson’s political activism during the civil rights movement was directly informed by her observance of the racism of the pleasure industry associated with New Orleans:

I never did like the world-famous Mardi Gras that went on in New Orleans. It was a beautiful sight, but to me it was horrible. I have seen…

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