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LSUS graduate student’s civil rights research wins MLA Thesis Award

November 18, 2019

Sherman Houston, Jr., is the winner of the Masters in Liberal Arts Thesis Award for his research into gospel singer Mahalia Jackson’s work with the civil rights movement.

A detailed account of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson’s involvement in the civil rights movement has won the LSU Shreveport Masters in Liberal Arts Thesis Award.

“Moving on up a Little Higher: Mahalia Jackson, Champion of Freedom through Song”, by Sherman Houston Jr., is the first volume in The Noel Masters Series published by LSUS. Sherman will speak on Jackson and sign copies of his book from 11 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. Wednesday, November 20 in the Assembly Room at Noel Memorial Library on the LSUS campus.

“Mahalia Jackson’s music has been at the center of my life since I was a little boy,” Houston said. “My father introduced me to her. He always pushed me to get an education. He always wanted me to do better than him.”

The MLA program created the thesis award last year. It was funded last year by a Faculty Research and Development Grant and this year by a Noel Foundation Grant, which covered publication of the winning thesis and a $500 honorarium to the student receiving the award. Any student completing a thesis in the MLA Program is eligible for the award, said Dr. Elisabeth Liebert, the MLA Program director.

“As a cultural hub, we have a responsibility to invest in knowledge not only within our own walls but also within the community that supports us,” Dr. Liebert said.

A native of Grand Cane, Houston earned a bachelor’s degree in history at LSUS after graduating from Mansfield High School. He enrolled in the Masters in Liberal Arts program at LSUS because he wanted to stay close to home.

He has worked as an adjunct history instructor at Southern University Shreveport and is now seeking a permanent position teaching history.

Houston’s father, Sherman L. Houston Sr., was a disabled veteran who supported Houston’s dream of becoming a college history professor. He was a sounding board as Houston sifted through archives and listened to rare recordings while researching Jackson’s civil rights contributions – but he wasn’t there for Houston’s moment of achievement.

“He passed away in March of 2018, and I graduated in May of 2018,” Houston said. “I dedicated my book to him. Because of his sacrifices, I was able to ‘move on up a little higher’.”

For more information about the Masters in Liberal Arts Thesis Award contact Dr. Elisabeth Liebert at

(318) 797-5287 or

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