Martin and Mahalia

Mahalia Jackson sings “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.”

This week in AFRO 215: The American Civil Rights Movement, we are discussing the tactics of the CRM vis-a-vis performance. We have so far been thinking of music’s role in the movement as well as the elements of theater that come to play, whether it the artists’ performance in a particular venue–or the citizens’ rehearsal and public performance of integration, we dug deep into the ways that music opened up spaces for community, protest, joy. We lingered on Mahalia (“How I Got Over” and “Precious Lord”) and landed on the video above.

I have to admit that when I first watched this, I was fascinated by the look of sheer pleasure on Martin Luther King’s face as Mahalia Jackson sang “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” Martin Luther King was blushing and smiling like a schoolboy. I wanted students to have this image, this view of anticipation and pleasure, of Mahalia’s voice as “the spirit moves [her]” and as she moves us.