Jesse Jackson

Born on October 8, 1941, in Greenville, South Carolina, Jesse Jackson attended the University of Illinois on a football scholarship and later transferred to North Carolina A&T State University. He attended Chicago Theological Seminary until he joined the Civil Rights Movement full time in 1965. Reverend Jackson began his activism as a student leader in the sit-in movement and continued as a young organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as an assistant to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He went on to direct Operation Breadbasket and subsequently founded People United to Save Humanity (PUSH) in Chicago in 1971. PUSH’s goals were economic empowerment and expanding educational and employment opportunities for the disadvantaged and communities of color. In 1984, Reverend Jackson founded the National Rainbow Coalition, a national social justice organization devoted to political empowerment, education and changing public policy. In September 1996, the Rainbow Coalition and Operation PUSH merged into the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition to continue both philosophies and maximize its resources. Reverend Jackson’s two presidential campaigns broke new ground in U.S. politics. His 1984 campaign won 3.5 million votes, registered over one million new voters, and helped the Democratic Party regain control of the Senate in 1986. His 1988 candidacy won seven million votes and registered two million new voters and helped to sweep hundreds of elected officials into office. Additionally, this civil rights leader won a historic victory, coming in first or second in 46 out of 54 contests. His clear progressive agenda and his ability to build an unprecedented coalition inspired millions to join the political process. As a highly respected world leader, Reverend Jackson has acted many times as an international diplomat in sensitive situations. In 1984, for example, Reverend Jackson secured the release of captured Navy Lieutenant Robert Goodman from Syria, as well as the release of 48 Cuban and Cuban-American prisoners in 1984. He was the first American to bring hostages out of Kuwait and Iraq in 1990. In 1990, in an impressive victory, Reverend Jackson was elected to the post of U.S. Senator from Washington, D.C., a position also known as “Statehood Senator.” The office was created to advocate for statehood for the District of Columbia, which has a population higher than five states yet has no voting representation in Congress. A hallmark of Reverend Jackson’s work has been his commitment to youth. He has visited thousands of high schools, colleges, universities, and correctional facilities encouraging excellence, inspiring hope and challenging young people to award themselves with academic excellence and to stay drug-free. He has also been a major force in the American labor movement-working with unions to organize workers and mediate labor disputes. It is noted; Reverend Jackson has probably walked more picket lines and spoken at more labor rallies than any other national leader. A renowned orator, Reverend Jackson has received numerous honors for his work in human and civil rights and for nonviolent social change. In 1991, the U.S. Post Office put his likeness on a pictorial postal cancellation, only the second living person to receive such an honor. He has been on the Gallup List of Ten Most Respected Americans for the past ten years. He has also received the prestigious NAACP Spingarn Award, in addition to honors from hundreds of grassroots and community organizations from coast to coast. Reverend Jackson has been awarded more than 40 honorary doctorate degrees, and frequently lectures at Howard, Yale, Princeton, Morehouse, Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, and Hampton Universities, among others. Since 1992, Reverend Jackson has hosted Both Sides With Jesse Jackson on Cable News Network. He is the author of two books: Keep Hope Alive (South End Press, 1989) and Straight From the Heart (Fortress Press, 1987). In 1996, Reverend Jackson co-authored the book Legal Lynching: Racism, Injustice, and the Death Penalty (Marlowe & Company) with his son, U.S. Representative Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. In October 1997, Reverend Jackson was appointed by President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as “Special Envoy of the President and Secretary of State for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa.” In his official position as Special Envoy, Reverend Jackson traveled to Kenya and Zambia in November 1997. Reverend Jackson met with His Excellency Daniel T. Arap Moi of Kenya and President Frederick J.T. Chiluba of Zambia during his trip.