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How I Got Over

How I Got Over


by Mahalia Jackson

How I Got Over Introduction

She was the Queen of Gospel, the voice of Civil Rights, and a rare, strong personality. A close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahalia Jackson performed her beloved version of "How I Got Over" in front of hundreds of thousands on Capitol Hill just after King gave his renowned "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963. Through this song and dozens of others, Jackson brought the force of her deep-seated belief in Christian salvation to the heated struggle for social change in the 1950s and 1960s.

About the Song

ArtistMahalia Jackson Musician(s)Mahalia Jackson (vocals)
AlbumIn the Upper Room
LabelApollo Records
Writer(s)Clara Ward
Learn to play: Sheet Music
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes
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Shmoop Connections

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"How I Got Over" is one of the songs that formed the soundtrack for the Civil Rights Movement (along with more famous protest tunes like "We Shall Overcome," which was originally based on a gospel song, too). Mahalia Jackson threw herself into anti-racist activism, but she also saw her songs as strictly gospel: she was literally singing to the masses about faith in Jesus Christ. Throughout her career, her religious beliefs kept her from singing the blues or even giving concerts in bars.

Her belief in Christ as savior kept her from the bottle, but it didn't keep her from the larger world. Over the years, Jackson hit the pavement time and time again alongside other Civil Rights protestors, finding time between her international tours and performances for prime ministers and presidents (she sang in front of both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson). All of this from an inveterate singer of church music, who grew up dirt poor in the Jim Crow-era South, never went to high school or learned to read music, and worked as a cleaner and hairdresser for much of her early career.

On the Charts

Mahalia Jackson's version of "How I Got Over" won a Grammy for Best Soul Gospel Performance in 1976, four years after her death.

Jackson received the first ever Grammy Award in the Gospel and Religious Music category in 1961, and was honored with a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 1972.

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