Mahalia Jackson’s Home

Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) was one of the thousands of black Southerners moving north to Chicago during the 1920s. She opened both a beauty salon and a flower shop, but her real talent was in singing. Over the course of forty years she became the most celebrated Gospel singer in the world.

The Chicago Tribute marker in front of her home at 8358 South Indiana Avenue tells us as much. What it doesn’t tell us about is the struggles Jackson had merely to live there.

8358 S. Indiana Ave.

8358 S. Indiana Ave.

Jackson liked to practice her singing at night while she cooked and cleaned her flat. The landlord complained about the noise, so Jackson saved her money and bought her own apartment building. That didn’t work, either—now her tenants were saying she was too loud.

In 1956 Jackson decided the only solution was to buy a house for herself. Driving around the Chatham neighborhood on the South Side, she stopped at a number of homes with “For Sale” signs out front. At each one, she was told that the property had just been sold.

Chatham was an all-white area. Though restrictive covenants had been outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court, that didn’t seem to matter. “The attention I had been getting from white people for my singing had sort of confused me,” Jackson wrote later. “They still didn’t want me as their neighbor.”

Jackson then went to a real estate agent. A white surgeon had a house on the market at 84th and Indiana. When told the identity of the prospective buyer, the surgeon said he was “proud to sell my house to [Mahalia Jackson].”

The news of Jackson’s purchase sent the neighborhood into a frenzy. A local Catholic priest who tried to calm things was ignored. Protest meetings were held. Jackson received hostile phone calls at all hours of the night, threatening to dynamite the house.

The situation didn’t improve when she moved in. Rifle bullets were fired through her window. A police guard was posted, and remained in front of the house for nearly a year. “I hadn’t intended to start a crusade,” Jackson recalled. “All I wanted was a quiet, pretty home to live in.”

Early in 1958 Edward R. Murrow brought his Person-to-Person interview program to Jackson’s home. Jackson used the occasion to invite the local kids over for ice cream and cake, and a chance to appear on TV. When many of the children did show up, Jackson thought she was finally being accepted.

A cynic once described integration as “the time between the first black family moving in, and the last white family moving out.” Jackson’s neighborhood followed that course. Scared by panic-peddling realtors and afflicted by their own prejudice, all the whites eventually cleared out.

“The white people swore we would ruin it,” Jackson wrote about the neighborhood in her 1966 autobiography. “They said it would be a slum overnight. But it hasn’t changed. The grass is still green. The lawns are as neat as ever. Children still whiz up and down on their bikes.”

So it was in 1966. And so it still is today.


A longer version of this story—and 59 more like it—can be found in my book, HIDDEN CHICAGO LANDMARKS.  Available in bookstores or on Amazon.


40 Responses to “Mahalia Jackson’s Home”

  1. 1 Cathy thomas April 7, 2016 at 8:49 am

    I would love to see inside of her gorgeous home. They should take down the boards on that beauty shop and and remodel it just the way it look in her life time, and also remodel the flower. I just recently found out she was part choctaw indian. Rip in mahalia.

  2. 3 Glenn Jackson April 9, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    I love mahalia and so did my mother i love her music even more today

  3. 4 Marc Dumas April 13, 2016 at 11:05 am

    It is now currently owned by Mr and Mrs Roland Burris, former Comptroller and Attorney General of the State of IL and one time Senator.

  4. 6 johndavidbryant1 April 13, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Reblogged this on preachtruthyoumoron and commented:

  5. 7 merciesgirl April 13, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Reblogged this on Walker's North Star and commented:
    We knew the flat referred to in this article as well as the building she purchased. Her aunts as well as ours; Aunt Hannah and Aunt Alice baby-sat for my oldest child while they lived in that building.

  6. 14 caldon meadows April 13, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    she was a dynamite gospel soul singer

  7. 15 Dick James April 13, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    I used to do bus tours to see South side landmarks for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. Every time our bus rolled up to Mahalia’s home Roland Burris would run out, jump on the bus and press the flesh like a true campaigner. There is a strange house made of blue brick across from Mahalia.

  8. 16 Victoria April 13, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    I was born in Chicago in the beginning of 1960’s and as a little girl I remember Mahalia Jackson visiting a neighbor’s uncle that lived on 31st & Giles. We didn’t know how famous she real was, we just know that every time she can around she would sing to us kids that was outside playing and talk with my mother and the other neighbors….. Ooooo 2what sweet memories

    • 17 Travis Armstead April 15, 2016 at 8:00 am

      Not only did she integrate that neighborhood, but she was a civil rights activists throughout sixties until she died. We often see her sitting on the stage at the Saturday meeting of SCLC speaking and singing with Jessie, C.T Vivian,and others. She often said she wouldn’t do any marching and sitting in, but offers her finances. The area where her home is still an upscale neighborhood.

    • 18 Sakeenah Salaam April 15, 2016 at 10:34 am

      I would love for you to share more about what her personality was like. Did she laugh a lot or make other people laugh? She seemed to be a grenetrally happy person.

      • 19 Lynn April 16, 2016 at 4:37 pm

        Yes, she had a funny side. She also was very unhappy at times. She had many struggles.

      • 20 Sakeenah Salaam April 16, 2016 at 7:35 pm

        Thank you for sharing that. I have watched numerous videos of her singing. She seemed happy just to sing. I know about her illness and troubled marriage. I am happy to know that she did have some joys in her everyday life. Please feel free to share with me anything else you know about her. I’m inspired by the way she handled her struggles.

    • 21 Frances April 16, 2016 at 1:39 am

      I lived at 3214 S Giles in the mid to late 50’s. Yep! Those were the days! Mahalia is still my favorite gospel singer. Always will be. 🙏🏾🙏🏾👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽

  9. 22 Jackie April 15, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Ignorance must be ignored.

  10. 23 Keith rene Roquemore April 15, 2016 at 8:37 am

    The Spirit going through Sis. Jackson house, was strong. Didn’t matter what white neighbors thought. God had it all!

  11. 24 Edward McClure April 15, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    My mom’s sister, her husband and their five kids lived around the corner at 83rd St and Indiana Ave. My aunt and one cousin still own homes there. I have many fond memories of spending time during the summer in that same Chatham neighborhood.

  12. 25 W.J. Franklin June 1, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    Back in the year when purchased. What did a house like this cost? It’s beautiful.

  13. 29 william coleman June 17, 2016 at 9:36 am

    I read that Dr. King was at her home when Coretta gave birth to Dexter. They called to ask him what to name the baby. The rest is history.

  14. 30 Anthony S. Harris October 4, 2016 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for sharing all of these comments. I am a great fan of the Queen! Does her house still exist today. I would love to visit Chicago and see it.

  15. 32 Melissa November 22, 2017 at 7:18 am

    Thank you i have known that the southeast side is a special part of the Chicago landscape.

  16. 33 Marilynn March 2, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    I lived 3 doors away from Mahalia Jackson when I was young. It was awesome hearing her singing at night.My Mom would open the windows so we could hear better. One time I slid under her fence while roller skating. She brought me in the house and served cookies and ice cream. I never knew or heard any neighbor say anything bad about her. I reemember when Edward R Murtow did Person to Person ast her house. My Mom saw Nat King Cole over there once, too.

  17. 34 Mahogany Brown July 18, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    God will bring us through all situations like Mahalia did if we just trust and believe in him.

  18. 36 Constance July 23, 2020 at 9:43 pm

    Absolutely right, that neighborhood is still gorgeous and well-manicured to this day. Black professional and hard working citizens reside there.

  19. 37 Barbara Murphy-Dunn July 24, 2020 at 3:23 am

    What perseverance for peace. Just wanted peace. That’s all she wanted… PEACE!

  20. 38 Estelle Hooper July 26, 2020 at 11:56 pm

    Oh I so admire her. I always Liston to her singing at Christmas. Never new much about her I had an alum of hers an I played over an over again. These comment help to shed a little light on her. I would like to know more I was sad when she pass away for a while.

  21. 39 Alma henry April 7, 2021 at 9:14 am

    Ms.Jackson came to Bakersfield ca. In 1962,She song her heart out. With a blue dress on.Ms.Jackson looked like a queen.I still have about 20 records of hers.

  22. 40 Verlinda Franklin June 11, 2021 at 5:32 pm

    It’s still a beautiful place an. Sad how some people can be ignorant in a lot of ways an yet still remain to this day smh

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