Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.
TODAY WE SALUTE: Albertina Walker
For Black History Month
A MOMENT WITH
The Queen of Gospel Albertina Walker
Albertina Walker Hailed as the “Queen of Gospel”, Albertina Walker was born in 1929 in Chicago, IL. At the age of four, Albertina began singing in the Children’s Choir of the West Point Baptist Church under the direction of Professor Pete Williams. It was during this time that America had undergone a major economic collapse and the country was experiencing a great social and political upheaval. The black church was at the heart of this cultural awakening and gospel music was slowly gaining acceptance in the black churches, thanks to the efforts of Gospel greats such as Professor Thomas A. Dorsey, Sallie Martin, Kenneth Morris, Rosetta Thorpe, and Albertina’s personal friend, Mahalia Jackson. Albertina was singing with the Williams Singers touring with Willie Webb and The Robert Anderson Singers.
In 1951 at just twenty two years of age Ms. Walker organized her own group, the world famous CARAVANS. The original group the Caravans consisted of Elyse Yancy, Nellie Grace Daniels, and OraLee Hopkins Samson.
Albertina discovery of new talent, the legendary Caravans launched the careers of Pastor Shirley Caesar, Inez Andrews, Delores Washington, Cassietta George, Evangelist Dorothy Norwood and the “King of Gospel” the Reverend James Cleveland. This rightfully earned Albertina the title “The Star Maker”. The Caravans achieved great success acclaimed household name with hits like Sweeping Through The City, Mary Don’t You Weep, Walk Around Heaven, and Lord Keep Me Day By Day.
After a stellar career with the Caravans, Albertina went on to phenomenal success as a solo artist, recording her first project Put A Little Love In Your Heart in 1975. To date, she has recorded over 60 albums, including gold selling hits Please Be Patient With Me, I Can Go To God In Prayer, The Best Is Yet To Come, Impossible Dream, and Joy Will Come. Albertina still enjoys an active recording career, often lending her talents to the projects of other artists in addition to her own.
Albertina was committed to the preservation of gospel music and the enhancement of the human experience. To this end, she has lent her support to many charitable organizations such as The United Negro College Fund, The American Cancer Society, The National Council of Negro Women, The Nation of Islam’s “Million Family” March, One Voice “A Fight Against AIDS”, The NAACP and Operation Push. Year of 1988 Albertina founded The Albertina Walker Scholarship Foundation for the Creative and Performing Arts. The foundation offers financial assistance to college students in the form of scholarships to further their education in the field of music.
Ms. Walker’s personal and television appearances worldwide are too numerous to mention. However, she has sung for United States President George Bush, former President Bill Clinton, and The President of South Africa, President Nelson Mandela. Albertina has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, “Good Morning America”, and “The Travis Smiley Show”. Albertina is a frequent guest on the nationally syndicated BET and Word television show, “Bobby Jones Gospel”, “Testify” and “Singsation”. Her fans have also enjoyed her in the motion picture “Leap of Faith” starring Steve Martin, “Going Home to Gospel with Patti Labelle”, the Off Broadway play “The Gospel Truth”, and “The Evolution of Gospel”.
Albertina’s gift in music ministry and unselfish commitment to humanity for over six decades has earned her many awards and honors. Among them, a 1995 Grammy Award for the Best Traditional Gospel Album (Songs of The Church); 10 Grammy Award nominations; 5 Gold Records; 3 Stellar Awards; several Gospel Music Workshop of America Excellence Awards; an induction into the 2001 Gospel Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. Albertina is featured in the book entitled Who’s Who In Black America, and has received several keys to various cities, she was honored at the Chicago Gospel Festival where a bench bearing her name was placed in downtown Chicago’s Grant Park. The City of Chicago paid tribute to Albertina by renaming 35th and Cottage Grove “Albertina Walker and The Caravans Drive”.
Conferred upon Albertina, the honorary Doctor of Letters Degree by the Chicago Theological Seminary, an institution of the University of Chicago Illinois. President Bush honored Albertina for her contribution to gospel music May 31, 2002, the ceremony held at the White House declaring the month of June as Black Music Month.
Albertina’s unselfish devotion, contributions and love for gospel music has truly earned her the historical rank as the “Queen of Gospel”. Exuberating her message of faith in God, Albertina sings “I’m Still Here”.