Mahalia Jackson, Walking with Kings and Queens
by Nina Nolan, illustrated by John Holyfield
Mahalia Jackson was born with nothing, except a voice that was bigger than she was. When she sang, “she felt like a peacock with her feathers all spread out.” Her mama died and later she had to quit school to look after her cousins. But she always sang. When she was sixteen, an aunt took her in and she returned to school, until her aunt took sick. She sang gospel whenever she could. “Mahalia’s joyful voice lifted people with hope. After she sang…, people lined up to join the congregation.” She took a singing lesson as was told to “stop hollering.” She kept hollering. She sang in Carnegie Hall and before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In back matter, readers learn that well after her death, a New Orleans theatre was named after her and a commemorative postage stamp issued. As her aunt Bell always said to her, “you’ll walk with kings and queens”—and Mahalia became the queen.
A moving story with rich illustrations makes it a joy to follow Mahalia’s dream to sing. An inspiring story.