Study Guide

How I Got Over

How I Got Over Introduction

In a Nutshell

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

ArtistJackson, Mahalia
Year1957
LabelApollo Records
Writer(s)Clara Ward
Musician(s)Mahalia Jackson (vocals)
Learn to playSheet Music
AlbumIn the Upper Room

Music Video

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Influences on Jackson, Mahalia

Bessie Smith
Ma Rainey
Thomas Dorsey

Influenced by Jackson, Mahalia

Shirley Johnson
Aretha Franklin
Nina Simone
James Cleveland
Linda Hopkins
Gloria Lynn
Jennifer Holiday

How I Got Over Resources

Books

Darlene Donloe, Mahalia Jackson, Gospel Singer (1992)
A straightforward biography of Jackson.

Barbara Kramer, Mahalia Jackson: The Voice of Gospel and Civil Rights (2003)
This is a concise and accessible young adult biography from the Enslow African-American Biographies series.

Albums

Essential Mahalia Jackson (2004)
This newer two-disc album covers a wider range of Jackson's work.

The Best of Mahalia Jackson (1995)
Jackson made many recordings in her lifetime, and her live recordings are some of the best. It's hard to know where to start, but this provides a decent sampling of her studio work.

Christmas with Mahalia (1990)
At the peak of her career, Jackson put out a Christmas album on vinyl almost every year.

Images

Jackson Live
She's giving it her all in this picture, and many others. Those who saw her said nothing could beat seeing her live. Today, nothing beats the YouTube footage.

Classic Jackson Portrait
It doesn't capture all the energy that her singing face does, but shows a softer side of the singer.

Movies & TV

Mahalia Jackson: The Power and the Glory (1997)
A film documentary about Jackson's life and music.

St. Louis Blues (1958)
Mahalia Jackson plays—guess what?—a gospel singer in this movie about, um, gospel singers.

Websites

Mahalia Jackson Official Website
Here's the accessible, if slightly underwhelming, site maintained by the official Jackson estate.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Mahalia Jackson
This page provides a thoughtful overview of Jackson's career. She was inducted for "Early Influence," and the page notes that gospel and spiritual music played a key role in inspiring more secular rock and R&B styles.

"Mahalia Jackson: Voice of the Civil Rights Movement," NPR (2010)
This report from February 2010 provides a brief audiobiography of Jackson.

David Barsamian, "Studs Terkel Interview: A Life Dedicated to Telling the Stories of Our Class" (2004)
This humorous interview with the Chicago radio legend includes several stories about Mahalia Jackson, a long-time friend and collaborator of Terkel's. She once saved Terkel from losing a job, and another time, she got Terkel an interview with MLK, Jr.

Video & Audio

"How I Got Over," 1963 March on Washington
This is an incredible video of Jackson singing the song just after MLK's famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Studs Terkel Talks About Mahalia Jackson
The legendary Chicago radio figure muses that he may have been the first white guy to take an interest in her music.