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Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Queen of Gospel Impacts MLK

Today in Music History: August 28, 1963

There are moments in history, as well as everyday life, when someone was at the right place at the right time. On this day in history, among thousands upon thousands who arrived in Washington, DC was Mahalia Jackson. Having already secured her place in the music industry by 1956 as Queen of Gospel, it came as no surprise when she was invited to perform as the lead-in to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his now famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Indeed, if Dr. King, Jr., had a favorite opening act, it was Mahalia Jackson, who performed by his side many times. Unknown at the time of the invitation was the direct role she would play in turning that speech into one of the most memorable and meaningful in American history.

This Day in History: August 28, 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr
I Have a Dream
August 28, 1963 marks the day of the historical march on Washington. Multitudes of travelers crossed the country by road, rail and air. Organizers of the march had even arranged buses to bring thousands of marchers to Washington. Some arrived by dawn's early light. At this hour, the freedom line was thin, not very long. As the crowd inched its way forward, more and more joined in the peaceful march. What was estimated to be a crowd of 100,000 was far from the actual total of more like 250,000. Once into full swing, the rally featured many different speakers prior to the famous Martin Luther King, Jr. 'I Have a Dream Speech'. These speeches continued well into the afternoon with the tightly packed crowd becoming restless in the sweltering heat, 'many waiting almost for the speeches to end'. Then, by invitation of Martin Luther King, Jr., entered Mahalia Jackson. Following the speech by Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, Mahalia Jackson known as the Queen of Gospel "brought the then listless crowd to life" by singing 'I've been Buked and I've Been Scorned'.  [March, p. 237-239

It wasn't just the music that had an indelible impact on the event. It was the word's of Mahalia Jackson after her performance that came from behind the podium on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King was speaking. 

"Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream!"
At that moment, as can be seen in films of the speech, Dr. King leaves his prepared notes behind to improvise the entire next section of his speech—the historic section that famously begins "And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream...."

At the March on Washington in 1963 Mahalia sang in front of 250,000 people "I've Been 'Buked, and I've Been Scorned", in which Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. She also sang "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" at the funeral of her friend Martin Luther King, Jr. She was one of his favorite gospel singers. Indeed, her good friend Martin Luther King said "a voice like hers comes along once in a millennium". In addition to sharing her singing talent with the world, she mentored the extraordinarily gifted Aretha Franklin; she was a close friend of Aretha's father, C. L. Franklin, and a frequent guest in the Franklin home.
On August 28, 1963 some 250,000 Americans assembled in the nations capital for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Performers such as Mahalia Jackson and Bob Dylan performed for the crowd, but the most memorable moments came when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his I Have a Dream speech. Despite the size of the peaceful protest, President John Kennedy's civil rights legislation languished in Congress. It would take a new president, Lyndon Johnson, to move the bill forward. LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Dr. Martin Luther King Tribute

I Have a Dream Speech
Martin Luther King's Address at March on Washington
August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.

More than one person made history on this day but none any more famous than the speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. which became a turning point for our nation.