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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Music · Mahalia Jackson · How I got over

This is the great Mahalia Jackson performing at the conclusion of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, fifty years ago today.

She almost didn't get to perform, having been barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution. This was reversed after intervention by Eleanor Roosevelt.

24 years before the black opera singer Marian Anderson had also performed at the Lincoln Memorial, after those same Daughters of the American Revolution had barred her from singing in Washington’s Constitution Hall.
In response, a broad coalition of civil rights advocates, with support from Eleanor Roosevelt and Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, organized a concert on the steps of the memorial. More than 75,000 people attended the performance, and millions more listened to the live radio broadcast.  Anderson opened by pointedly singing “My Country Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty.”  The concert lasted less than an hour, but it honored Anderson’s talents as a black artist and forever fixed the Lincoln Memorial as a symbolic shrine to civil rights.
How I Get Over was written by Clara Ward in 1951. According to her sister, Willa Ward, the inspiration was an experience Ward, Willa, their mother, Gertrude, and members of their singing group had traveling in the racially segregated South in 1951.
En route to Atlanta, Georgia, they were besieged by a group of white men. The men were enraged that Black women were riding in a luxury vehicle (a Cadillac), and surrounded their car and terrorized them with racist taunts. The women were rescued when, in a burst of inspiration, Gertrude Ward feigned demonic possession, spewing curses and incantations at the men, who fled.
Video of Jackson after the jump:

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