THE ICON: Mahalia Jackson
THE LEGACY: Growing up in a shack along the Mississippi River levee in New Orleans, Mahalia Jackson wanted to be a nurse. Something about that clean, white uniform. She never did get to nursing school, but Jackson — the daughter of a preacher — would end up soothing countless souls another way: with her singular, powerful voice. Whether she was performing at the first Jazz Fest, recording one of her many gospel hits, or supporting the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when she lifted her voice, people had to listen. To her, it was about two simple words: praise and worship. And for the rest of us? Amen and hallelujah.
THE ARTIST: Jessica Strahan, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “She was a noble woman, an artist without peer, a magnetic ambassador of good will for the United States in other lands, an exemplary servant of her God.” — President Richard Nixon, on the death of Jackson in 1972