Mahalia Jackson children: Did the singer adopt John as her son?

Eve Edwards April 4, 2021
Photo by Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

While Mahalia Jackson did not have any children of her own, she raised a child named John. Their relationship is examined in the new Lifetime biopic, Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia.

The singer, born 26 October 1911 in New Orleans, is widely regarded as one of the most influential vocalists of the 20th century. She passed away at the age of 60 in 27 January 1972.

Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks stars as the singer in Lifetime’s biopic. The film was released on 3 April 2021.

Why did Mahalia Jackson not have any children?

As explored in the film Mahalia, Mahalia Jackson had a hysterectomy. This is the removal of a womb. Undergoing a hysterectomy meant that she could not have any children of her own.

Danielle Brooks, who also co-produced the film, spoke of the importance of including this life detail.

Brooks said: “We have to tell this story and show the complexity of a woman wanting to be a mother and not having that ability. That was important to me.”

Jackson had a hysterectomy as she was diagnosed with sarcoidosis. This is an inflammatory disease that causes immune cells to form lumps in the body’s organs. There is no cure, but the disease can be alleviated through surgery.

Mahalia adopts son John

We meet John as a child, where he is trying to get the director to hear him sing for a job. Mahalia finds young John (played by Keenan Mentzos) and takes him in.

It is unknown if she officially adopted John, although she raised him as her own.

One viewer tweeted: “So glad that Mahalia was able to take in and raise John.”

Adult John is then played by Benjamin Charles Watson.

What happened to John?

While John’s relationship with Mahalia Jackson features heavily in the Lifetime film, few details are revealed about him in accounts of her real life.

It is unknown what happened to John after Mahalia’s death in 1972.