Who was the young Halie Jackson, the orphan 'taken on,' by her hard Aunt Duke after the death of her mother, the child who loved listening to Bessie Smith, playing baseball with the boys on Saturday evening, and singing grown folks' gospels on Sunday morning. The tall girl who, at 16, stole away against Aunt Duke's wishes, to Chicago's Promised Land - the Promised Land that wasn't, but would become home and allow her to nurture her dreams, sing for her supper, and stretch her boundaries as a black woman, in time acquiring unparalleled fame and wealth.
Mahalia Jackson changed the world with her voice. Yet, in spite of her wealth and fame, there was a gaping hole inside, put there when her mother Charity died. Little Halie was only six, and Charity's leaving would forever dampen her happiness, cause her to forever look for something to take her place, spreading her love thin-- among family, friends, acquaintances, admirers and sometimes lovers.
She was a woman who abhorred being alone, Mahalia avoided the mirrors that forced her to analyze the who, and why of her present and her past. Loneliness, though, was part of the package for those blessed with global fame. And, so was falling in love often… and too often, unwisely. The woman with the beautiful smile, and more charisma than any one woman should have, would know heartbreak and despair throughout her life.
Mahalia's relentless drive, her need for material security and the desire to make her family proud eventually led to the gospel queen's spiritual and health melt-down, proving impossible, the "happily ever-after," story she'd dreamed of all those nights in New Orleans' Nigger Town, as she fell asleep to the vibration of the trains traveling just feet from her home.
Mahalia Jackson's reason for being miraculously changed after her chance meeting of the young Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1956. It was Martin who introduced her to a different kind of dream, a higher purpose. Their years-long symbiotic friendship and civil rights collaborations were powerful, life changing for both. Her voice serving as a balm for America's hurts and deferred dreams; Martin's words, impelling Blacks and whites to work together to change the soul of America.
Mahalia's death in 1972 was too soon. Yet, there was so much packed into her 60 years on this earth; an astounding legacy that helps define America and the pre- and post-civil rights world she lived and moved inside. Only on Sundays: Mahalia Jackson's Long Journey, adds an important chapter to this great American's life story.