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Jackson, Jesse 1941—

Jesse Jackson 1941

Civil rights leader, politician

At a Glance

Joined King and the SCLC in 1965

A Force in Politics

Never Far From Controversy

Sources

During the last decade Jesse Jackson has firmly established himself as one of the most dynamic forces for social and political action in both the national and international arenas. His campaigns for economic justice, human rights, world peace, and the United States presidency have earned him recognition in polls as Americas most important black leader and the third most admired man in the U.S., as well as celebrity status among journalists and statesmen in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Central America. An inspirational speaker, committed activist, and tireless and confident campaigner, Jackson began his career as a foot soldier in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and has developed into a leader of millions of Americans black and whitea rainbow coalition of the nations dispossessed and disenfranchised.

Jacksons 1988 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination attracted over 6.9 million votesfrom urban blacks and Hispanics, poor rural whites, farmers and factory workers, feminists and homosexuals, and from white progressives wanting to be part of a historic change. He finished behind Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in the primaries, but exercised the power of his second-place finish to force his consideration as a vice-presidential running mate and to influence the nature of the Democratic Convention and the issues included on its platform. He called for homes for the homeless, comparable worth and day care for working women, a higher minimum wage, a commitment to the family farm, and an all-out war on drugs. When we form a great quilt of unity and common ground he told delegates at the party convention on July 19, 1988, well have the power to bring about health care and housing and jobs and education and hope to our nation.

Jackson has drawn upon his own early experience in Greenville, South Carolina, to relate to his constituency. He was born on October 8, 1941, to a seventeen-year-old unwed high school student and her older, comfortably middle-class neighbor, a married man. Jacksons ancestry includes black slaves, a Cherokee, and a white plantation owner. Although the young Jackson was quite aware of poverty and illegitimacy, his mother, grandmother, and stepfather were always able to see to family needs. Even so, his knowledge of social inequities and of his more privileged half brothers affected him. As Barbara

At a Glance

Full name, Jesse Louis Jackson; original name, Jesse Louis Burns; born October 8, 1941, in Greenville, SC; son of Noah Robinson (a cotton grader) and Helen Burns Jackson (a hairdresser); adopted by stepfather, Charles Henry Jackson (a postal worker), 1957; married Jacqueline Lavinia Davis, 1964; children: Santita, Jesse Louis, Jr., Jonathan Luther, Yusef Du Bois, Jacqueline Lavinia. Education: Attended University of Illinois, 1959-60; North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College, B.A., 1964; attended Chicago Theological Seminary, 1964-66. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Baptist.

Ordained Baptist minister, 1968. Field representative for the Council on Racial Equality (CORE), 1964; demonstrator in SCLC voting rights campaign, Selma, Alabama, 1965; Chicago coordinator of Operation Breadbasket, 1966-67, national director, 1967-71; Operation PUSH founder, 1971, executive director, 1971-86, also founder of PUSH-Excel and PUSH for Economic Justice; candidate for Democratic presidential nomination, 1983-84 and 1987-88; National Rainbow Coalition Inc., Chicago, founder, 1986, national president, 1986; statehood senator for the District of Columbia, 1991. Host of the syndicated television program Voices of America with Jesse Jackson, 1989; also hosted radio broadcasts from Chicago and contributed weekly columns to the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

Awards: Rockefeller grant, c. mid-1960s, Presidential Award, National Medical Association, 1969; Humanitarian Father of the Year, National Fathers Day Committee, 1971; numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities, including Pepperdine University, Oberlin College, Oral Roberts University, Howard University, and Georgetown University.

Addresses: Office National Rainbow Coalition Inc., 30 West Washington, Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60602.

Reynolds wrote in her biography Jesse Jackson: America s David: Every teacher Jesse came into contact with took note of his insecurities, masked by a stoic sense of superiority. They never perceived him as brilliant, but rather each saw him as a charmer, a spirited, fierce competitor with an almost uncanny drive to prove himself by always winning, always being number one in everything. At Sterling High School Jackson was elected president of his class, the honor society, and the student council, was named state officer of the Future Teachers of America, finished tenth in his class, and lettered in football, basketball, and baseball.

In 1959 Jackson left the South to attend the University of Illinois on an athletic scholarship. During his first year, however, he became dissatisfied with his treatment on campus and on the gridiron and decided to transfer to Greensboros North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College, a predominantly black institution. There he was quarterback, honor student, fraternity officer, and president of the student body. After receiving his B.A. in sociology he accepted a Rockefeller grant to attend the Chicago Theological Seminary, where he planned to train for the ministry. Jackson was ordained a Baptist minister in 1968, though he had not finished his coursework at CTS, having instead left in 1966 to commit himself full-time to the Civil Rights Movement.

Jackson first became involved in the Civil Rights Movement while a student at North Carolina A & T. There he joined the Greensboro chapter of the Council on Racial Equality (CORE), an organization that had led early sit-ins to protest segregated lunch counters. In 1963 Jackson organized numerous marches, sit-ins, and mass arrests to press for the desegregation of local restaurants and theaters. His leadership in these events earned him recognition within the regional movement; he was chosen president of the North Carolina Intercollegiate Council on Human Rights, field director of COREs southeastern operations, and in 1964 served as delegate to the Young Democrats National Convention. In Chicago in 1965 Jackson was a volunteer for the Coordinating Committee of Community Organizations and organized regular meetings of local black ministers and the faculty of the Chicago Theological Seminary.

Joined King and the SCLC in 1965

Jackson joined Martin Luther King, Jr., and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1965 during demonstrations in Selma, Alabama, pushing for expanded voting rights for blacks. When the SCLC launched the Chicago Freedom Movement in 1966, Jackson was there to put his knowledge of the city and contacts within the black community to work for King. He organized local ministers to support the movement, marched through all-white neighborhoods to push for open housing, and began work on SCLCs economic program, Operation Breadbasket. Drawing from successful campaigns in other cities, Operation Breadbasket organized the black community to use selective buying and boycotts to support black manufacturers and retailers and to pressure white-owned businesses to stock more of their products and hire more black workers. Jackson served as Operation Breadbaskets Chicago coordinator for one year and was then named its national director. Under Jacksons leadership the Chicago group won concessions from local dairies and supermarkets to hire more blacks and stock more products from black businesses. It encouraged deposits from businesses and the government for black-owned banks and organized a Black Christmas and a Black Expo to promote black-owned manufacturers.

In addition to his SCLC activities, Jackson led a number of other campaigns in his adopted home city and state. In 1969 and 1970 he gathered Illinoiss malnourished and led them on a march to the state capital to raise consciousness of hunger. He led a similar event in Chicago. The state responded by increasing funding to school lunch programs, but Mayor Richard Daleys machine in Chicago was less cooperative. The mayors power and resistance to change, as well as an Illinois law that raised difficult barriers to independent candidates, prompted Jackson to run for mayor of Chicago in 1971. He was not successful; some believe, however, that his efforts laid the foundation for Harold Washingtons successful bid to become Chicagos first black mayor in 1983.

In 1971 Jackson resigned from the SCLC to found his own organization, People United to Save Humanity (PUSH). Because of his aggressive, impatient, and commanding personality, Jackson had long irritated SCLC leadership; and, in the three and a half years after Kings assassination, he had offended others with his public antics to secure a role as leader of the Civil Rights Movement and his feuds with Ralph D. Abernathy, Kings successor as president of the SCLC, over leadership, policy, and funding. Through PUSH Jackson continued to pursue the economic objectives of Operation Breadbasket and expand into areas of social and political development for blacks in Chicago and across the nation. The 1970s saw direct action campaigns, weekly radio broadcasts, and awards through which Jackson protected black homeowners, workers, and businesses, and honored prominent blacks in the U.S. and abroad. He also promoted education through PUSH-Excel, a spin-off program that focused on keeping inner-city youths in school and providing them with job placement.

A Force in Politics

Since 1979 Jackson has repeatedly asserted himself as a prominent figure in national and international politics. In that year he traveled to South Africa to speak out against apartheid and to the Middle East to try to establish relations between Israel and the Palestinians. In January of 1984 he returned to the Middle East to negotiate the release of Lieutenant Robert Goodman, a black Navy pilot who had been shot down and taken hostage in the region. Later that year he traveled to Cuba to negotiate the release of several political prisoners held there and to Central America, where he spoke out for regional peace. Nineteen eighty-four was also the year of Jacksons first campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. His appeals for social programs, voting rights, and affirmative action for those neglected by Reaganomics earned him strong showings in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C. He received 3.5 million votes, enough to secure a measure of power and respect at the Democratic convention.

Jacksons 1988 campaign for the Democratic nomination was characterized by more organization and funding than his previous attempt. With the experience he gained from 1984 and new resources, Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition surprised the media and the political pundits. Initially written off as unelectable, Jackson emerged in the primary/caucus season as a serious contender for the nomination. After early respectable losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, he won five southern states on Super Tuesday, March 8, 1988. On March 12 he won the caucus in his birth state of South Carolina and three days later finished second in his home state of Illinois. On March 26 Jackson stunned Dukakis and the rest of the nation in the Michigan caucus: Having won that northern industrial state with 55 percent of the vote, Jackson became the Democratic front-runner. Dukakis later recaptured the lead and the eventual nomination with strong showings in the second half of the primary season. Even so, Jackson had succeeded in bringing Americans of all colors to consider a black man for the presidency and vice-presidency.

After the 1988 elections Jackson moved his home from Chicago to Washington, D.C. There he has campaigned against homelessness in the nations capital. He was considered one of the top contenders to take over as the capitals mayor after Marion Barry was forced out of office by a drug scandal, but Jackson refused to run.

Instead, he announced in July of 1990 that he would seek election as the District of Columbias statehood senator, a position recently established by the city government to push Congress to grant statehood to the district. He was elected in November and sworn into office in January of 1991. Even with his new duties, Jackson remains the most visible and vocal contender for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination.

Never Far From Controversy

From civil rights activist to presidential candidate, Jesse Jackson has stirred both admiration and criticism. His behavior in the hours immediately following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., was a subject of controversy: Jackson claimed that he had held the dying leader, heard his last words, and had his shirt stained by Kings blood. Other SCLC officers present at the murder have disputed those claims. As an organizer Jackson often overstepped his authority in SCLC matters and violated organization policy in a number of his Chicago campaigns. His economic boycotts were criticized by some businessmen as extortion and by some reformers for lacking follow-through. The management of PUSHs people and finances were the subject of close scrutiny and the freewheeling nature of the organization was regularly called into question. Jackson offended some Americans by negotiating with the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), Fidel Castro, and the Marxist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Jacksons connection with the Black Muslim leader and outspoken anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, as well as the candidates reference to New York City as Hymietown, outraged Jews.

The same driving ambition to achieve success that is at the root of Jacksons weaknesses is also the source of his strength. He is a tireless worker who is fiercely committed to his causes, even when bedriddenJackson suffers from sickle-cell trait. He is an intelligent, creative, and charismatic leader, an inspirational speaker capable of archiving numerous details, then using them to encapsulate his agenda along with the aspirations of many Americans. He has a flair for the dramatic that infuses an increasingly tedious political process with life. And finally, Jackson acts while others talk of action. He has become the leading spokesman for Americans forgotten by the power brokers of the political process, especially blacks. In his speeches Jackson often relates his vision of hope for these Americans: We have come from the slaveship to the championship, from the guttermost to the uttermost, from the outhouse to the courthouse, and from the statehouse to the White House.

Sources

Books

Abernathy, Ralph David, And the Wails Came Tumbling Down, Harper, 1989.

Colton, Elizabeth O., The Jackson Phenomenon: The Man, the Power, the Message, Doubleday, 1989.

Reynolds, Barbara A., Jesse Jackson: Americas David, JFJ Associates, 1985.

Periodicals

Christian Science Monitor, August 15, 1989.

Commonweal, November 7, 1986.

Harpers Magazine, March 1969.

Newsweek, April 4, 1988; October 16, 1989; January 29, 1990.

Vanity Fair, January 1988.

Bryan Ryan

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Jesse Louis Jackson

Jesse Louis Jackson

Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson (born 1941), the most successful African American presidential candidate in U.S. history, received over three million votes in the 1984 election.

Jesse Louis Jackson was born on October 18, 1941, in Greenville, South Carolina, a city beset with the problems of racial segregation. From birth, Jackson faced his own personal brand of discrimination. As a young girl his mother, Helen Burns, became pregnant by her married next-door neighbor, Noah Robinson. The young boy was shunned and taunted by his neighbors and school classmates for being "a nobody who had no daddy." Instead of letting this adversity defeat him, Jackson developed his exceptional drive and understanding of those who are oppressed. His mother eventually married and became a successful hairdresser while his stepfather, a postal employee, adopted Jackson in 1957. With helpful advice from his maternal grandmother and his own desire to succeed, Jackson overcame his numerous childhood insecurities, finishing tenth in his high school class, even though he was actively involved in sports. His academic and athletic background earned Jackson a football scholarship at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Jackson, eager to get away from the Southern racial climate, traveled north only to find both open and covert discrimination at the university and in other parts of the city.

After several semesters Jackson decided to leave the University of Illinois, return to the South, and attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (A&T) in Greensboro, an institution for African American students. Jackson again proved himself an able scholar and athlete. When his popularity on the campus led to his victory as student body president, Jackson did not take the responsibility lightly. As a college senior, he became a civil rights leader. Although he was not in Greensboro when the four African American freshman from A&T staged their famous Woolworth's sit-in in February 1960—the action which launched sit-down demonstrations throughout the South— Jackson actively encouraged his fellow students to continue their protests against racial injustice by staging repeated demonstrations and boycotts. Much of the open discrimination in the South fell before the onslaught of these student demonstrations.

Civil Rights Movement

In the spring of 1968 many of SCLC's officers— including Jackson—were drawn away from other civil rights protests by the Memphis, Tennessee, garbage collectors' strike. The situation in that city was especially tense because many African Americans who professed to be tired of passive resistance were willing and ready to fight. Tragically, King, in his attempt to prevent racial violence in that city, met a violent death by an assassin's bullet while standing on the balcony of his hotel room on April 4, 1968.

Some controversy surrounds the moments just after King was wounded. Jackson claimed on national television that he was the last person to talk to King and that he had held the dying leader in his arms, getting blood all over his shirt. The other men present unanimously agreed that this was not true, that Jackson had been in the parking lot facing King when he was shot and had neither climbed the steps to the balcony afterward nor gone to the hospital with King. Whatever the truth of the matter, Jackson's appearance on national television the next day with his bloodied turtleneck jersey vaulted him into national prominence. The image of Jackson and his bloody shirt brought the horror of the assassination into American homes. Jackson's ego, stirring oratory and charismatic presence caused the media to anoint him and not Ralph Abernathy, King's successor. Many observers believe that at this point, Jackson determined to become heir to King's position as the nation's foremost African American leader. In 1971, Jackson was suspended from the SCLC after its leaders claimed that he was using the organization to further his own personal agenda.

Operation PUSH

After his suspension from the SCLC, Jackson founded Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), an organization which essentially continued the work of Operation Breadbasket without SCLC's sponsorship. Standing in front of a picture of Dr. King, Jackson promised to begin "a rainbow coalition of blacks and whites gathered together to push for a greater share of economic and political power for all poor people in America." Throughout the decade, Jackson relentlessly spoke out against racism, militarism and the class divisions in American. He became a household name throughout the nation with his slogan "I Am Somebody".

By the mid 1970's, Jackson was a national figure. He realized that many of the problems plaguing the African American community stemmed from drug abuse and teen pregnancy and not simply economic deprivation. In 1976, Jackson created the PUSH-Excel, a program aimed at motivating children and teens to succeed. A fiery orator, Jackson traveled from city to city delivering his message of personal responsibility and self-worth to students: "You're not a man because you can kill somebody. You are not a man because you can make a baby … You're a man only if you can raise a baby, protect a baby and provide for a baby."

Jackson's support in the African American community allowed him to influence both local and national elections. Possibly the most important campaign in which he was involved was the election victory of the first African American mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington, in 1983. Washington's victory was attributed in part to Jackson's ability to convince over 100,000 African Americans, many of them youths, to register to vote. Jackson would also use his charisma to garner new voters during his 1984 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Rainbow Coalition

Jackson's debut on the international scene occurred when President Jimmy Carter approved his visit to South Africa. Jackson attracted huge crowds at his rallies where he denounced apartheid, South Africa's oppressive system that prevented the black majority population from enjoying the rights and privileges of the white minority. Later in 1979, he toured the Middle East where he embraced Yassar Arafat, the then-exiled Palestinian leader. Jackson's embrace of a man considered a terrorist by the American government created yet another controversy. The result of these international excursions caused Jackson's fame and popularity to grow within the African American community.

As the 1980's began, Jackson moderated many of his political positions. He was no longer the flamboyant young man wearing long hair and gold medallions, but a more conservative, mature figure seeking ways to reform the Democratic party from within. He continued to advocate his "rainbow coalition" as a way for all Americans to improve the country.

After growing increasingly disenchanted with the existing political scene, Jackson decided that he would campaign against Walter Mondale and Gary Hart in the 1984 Democratic presidential primaries. His campaign centered on a platform of social programs for the poor and the disabled, alleviation of taxes for the poor, increased voting rights, effective affirmative action initiatives for the hiring of women and minorities, and improved civil rights for African Americans, poor whites, immigrants, homosexuals, Native Americans, and women. Jackson also took a stand on many world issues. He called for increased aid to African nations and more consideration of the rights of Arabs. His support for Arab nations and African American Muslims provoked much criticism, especially from Jewish voters. In early 1984, Jackson used his popularity in the Arab world to obtain the release of an American pilot, Lt. Robert Goodman, who had been shot down over Lebanon.

When he returned home, Jackson concentrated on securing the African American vote for his candidacy. He did not receive support from most senior African American politicians, who felt that Jackson's candidacy would cause disunity within the Democratic camp and benefit the Republicans. However, many poor African Americans enthusiastically supported him. Jackson received 3.5 million votes, and possibly 2 million of those voters were newly registered. He carried 60 congressional districts on a budget of less than $3 million. Although many Americans, both black and white, were decidedly opposed to Jackson, he earned grudging respect because his campaign fared better than most people had expected. When Jackson conceded defeat at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, much of America listened respectfully to his address. Although his campaign was unsuccessful, Jackson's powerful presence had broken new ground and involved more African Americans in the political process.

After the 1984 election, Jackson devoted his time between working for Operation PUSH in Chicago and his new National Rainbow Coalition in Washington DC. This national coalition was designed to be a force for reform within the Democratic party. It also provided Jackson with a platform from which to mount his 1988 presidential bid. Jackson's campaign received a much broader base of support than in 1984. His polished delivery, quick wit, and campaign experience helped him to gain many new supporters. Among the seven serious contenders for the Democratic nomination, Jackson finished second to Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.

In 1990, Jackson was named one of two "shadow senators" to Congress from Washington DC to press for the district's statehood. Although the idea fizzled, it helped to keep Jackson in the public eye. In 1992, Jackson backed Democratic candidate Bill Clinton during the presidential campaign. He used his influence to urge African American voters to support Clinton. These efforts helped Clinton to win the election and return a Democrat to the White House for the first time in 12 years.

Critics often accuse Jackson of simply being a cheerleader of causes, a person who favors style over substance. Despite his unflagging energy and devotion to his causes, many felt that he was devoted only to his own self-aggrandizement. "This is the long-term pattern of Jackson's politics. He has always sought to operate and be recognized as a political insider, as a leader without portfolio or without accountability to any constituency that he claims to represent" wrote political critic Adolph Reed Jr. in the Progressive. "PUSH ran as a simple extension of his will and he has sought to ensure that the Rainbow Coalition would be the same kind of rubber stamp, a letterhead and front for his mercurial ambition."

Despite the criticism he has faced, Jackson continues to advocate for the rights of the downtrodden and challenge others to move beyond adversity. In 1995, Jackson wrote in Essence magazine, "People who are victimized may not be responsible for being down, but they must be responsible for getting up. Slave masters don't retire; people who are enslaved change their minds and choose to join the abolitionist struggle ….Change has always been led by those whose spirits were bigger than their circumstances … I do have hope. We have seen significant victories during the last 25 years."

Further Reading

Jackson's autobiography, Straight from the Heart, was published in 1987. There are a number of biographies of Jackson and several analytical studies of his presidential campaign. Two are Barbara A. Reynolds' sympathetic biography entitled Jesse Jackson: America's David (1985) and a critical work written by Thomas Landess and Richard Quinn, Jesse Jackson and the Politics of Race (1985). Several other biographies are Adolph L. Reed, The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon, a somewhat negative portrait (1986); Shield D. Collins, From Melting Pot to Rainbow Coalition (1986); and a children's book by Warren J. Halliburton, The Picture Life of Jesse Jackson (1984). Other works include Jesse: The Life and Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson; James Haskins, I Am Somebody! A Biography of Jesse Jackson, and Political Parties and Elections in the United States Vol. 1, edited by L. Sandy Maisel. □

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Jackson, Jesse

Jesse Jackson

Born: October 18, 1941
Greenville, South Carolina

African American political leader, religious minister, and orator

Civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson has spent decades in the public eye in support of ending racial and class divisions in America. He is the founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, a group that works to improve the lives of people throughout the United States and the world.

Early life and education

Jesse Louis Jackson was born on October 18, 1941, in Greenville, South Carolina. He was the son of Helen Burns and her married next-door neighbor, Noah Robinson. Jackson was teased by his neighbors and classmates for being "a nobody who had no daddy." Jackson developed a strong desire to succeed and an understanding of the oppressed (those who are treated unjustly). With advice from his grandmother, Jackson overcame his childhood problems, finishing tenth in his high-school class. He earned a football scholarship to attend the University of Illinois in Chicago. Jackson, eager to get away from the prejudice (dislike of people based on their race) and segregation (separation based on race) of the South, traveled north only to find both open and hidden discrimination (unequal treatment) at the university and in other parts of the city.

After several semesters Jackson decided to leave the University of Illinois. He returned to the South and enrolled at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (A&T) in Greensboro, North Carolina, an institution for African American students, where he was elected student body president. As a college senior he became a leader in the civil rights movement. Jackson actively encouraged his fellow students to protest against racial injustice by staging repeated demonstrations and boycotts (protests in which, for example, organizers refuse to shop at a certain store in an attempt to get the store to change an unjust policy or position). Jackson graduated in 1964 with a degree in sociology and economics.

Civil rights movement

After graduation Jackson decided to attend the Chicago Theological Seminary. After two and a half years at the school, Jackson left the seminary (a place for religious education) in 1966 before completing his divinity degree (a degree in the study of religion). He also joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights organization led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (19291968) that held nonviolent protests against segregation in the South. In April 1968 many of SCLC's officersincluding Jacksonwere drawn away from other civil rights protests by a garbage collectors' strike in Memphis, Tennessee. Tragically, King, in his attempt to prevent racial violence in that city, was killed by an assassin's bullet while standing on the balcony of his hotel room.

Jackson later claimed on national television that he had been the last person to talk to King and that he had held the dying leader in his arms, getting blood all over his shirt. The other men present agreed that this was not truethat Jackson had been in the parking lot facing King when the shooting occurred and had neither climbed the steps to the balcony afterward nor gone to the hospital with King. Whatever the truth of the matter may be, Jackson's appearance on national television the next day with his bloodied shirt brought the horror of the assassination into American homes, making him a well-known national figure. This publicity caused the media to refer to him as the new leader of the civil rights movement. In 1971 Jackson was suspended from the SCLC after its leaders claimed that he was using the organization to further his own personal goals.

After his suspension, Jackson founded Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity). Standing in front of a picture of Dr. King, Jackson promised to begin "a rainbow coalition of blacks and whites gathered together to push for a greater share of economic and political power for all poor people in America." Jackson spoke out against racial prejudice and discrimination, military action, and class divisions in America. In 1976 Jackson created PUSH-Excel, a program aimed at encouraging children and teens to succeed. A fiery orator (public speaker), Jackson traveled from city to city delivering his message of personal responsibility and self-worth to students: "You're not a man because you can kill somebody. You are not a man because you can make a baby. You're a man only if you can raise a baby, protect a baby and provide for a baby."

The rainbow coalition and bids for the presidency

Jackson became involved in international politics when President Jimmy Carter (1924) approved his visit to South Africa. Jackson attracted huge crowds at rallies, where he denounced (criticized) apartheid, South Africa's political system that prevented the black majority of the population from enjoying the rights and privileges of the white minority. Later in 1979 he toured the Middle East, where he was criticized for embracing Yasir Arafat (1929), the Palestinian leader who was considered a terrorist (a person who uses terror to force others to act in a certain way) by the American government. These international trips caused Jackson's fame and popularity to grow within the African American community.

As the 1980s began, Jackson was no longer a young man with long hair and gold chains but was instead a more mature figure seeking ways to change the Democratic Party from within. He continued to promote his "rainbow coalition" as a way for all Americans to improve the country. Jackson's support in the African American community also allowed him to influence both local and national elections. Possibly the most important campaign in which he was involved was the election victory of Harold Washington, the first African American mayor of Chicago, Illinois, in 1983. Jackson's ability to convince over one hundred thousand African Americans, many of them youths, to register to vote played a large part in Washington's victory.

Jackson decided to campaign in the 1984 presidential election as a Democrat. His campaign focused on social programs for the poor and disabled, reduced taxes for the poor, increased voting rights, effective programs to improve the job opportunities of women and minorities, and improved civil rights. He called for increased aid to African nations and more consideration of the rights of Arabs. Many senior African American politicians refused to support Jackson, believing that his candidacy would disrupt the Democratic Party and benefit the Republicans. However, many poor African Americans supported him. He received 3.5 million votes, and possibly 2 million of those voters were newly registered. Although his campaign was unsuccessful, Jackson had broken new ground while involving more African Americans in the political process.

After the 1984 election Jackson split his time between working for Operation PUSH in Chicago and his new National Rainbow Coalition, which he began in 1985, in Washington, D.C. (The two organizations later joined together to form the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.) He ran again for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1988 election. Although his second campaign received much wider support, Jackson finished second to Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis (1933), who went on to lose the presidential election. In 1992 he backed Democratic candidate Bill Clinton (1946) during the presidential campaign. He used his influence to urge African American voters to support Clinton. These efforts helped Clinton win the election and return a Democrat to the White House for the first time in twelve years.

More recent activities

Despite criticism that he was simply a cheerleader for causes and represented style more than substance, Jackson continued to speak out for civil rights and to challenge others to improve themselves. In 1995 Jackson wrote in Essence magazine, "People who are victimized may not be responsible for being down, but they must be responsible for getting up. Slave masters don't retire; people who are enslaved change their minds and choose to join the abolitionist [antislavery] struggle. Change has always been led by those whose spirits were bigger than their circumstances. I do have hope. We have seen significant victories during the last 25 years."

In November 1999 Jackson came to the defense of six high-school students expelled for fighting in Decatur, Illinois. The Decatur school board expelled the students for two years for their involvement in a brawl during a football game in September 1999. Jackson met with the board to try to reach a compromise that would allow the students to return to regular classes, but the board would only agree to reduce the punishment to one year and to allow the students to attend a different school. As a result, Jackson led a protest march at the school, where he was arrested for criminal trespassing.

Jackson received his master of divinity degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary on June 3, 2000. He had been only three courses short of earning his degree when he left the school more than three decades earlier. On August 9, 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jackson. The medal is the highest honor for civilians (nonmembers of military, police or fire-fighting units) in the United States. Jackson disappointed many of his followers when it became known in 2001 that he had fathered a daughterwho was twenty months old at the time of his announcementwith a woman other than his wife. "I fully accept responsibility, and I am truly sorry for my actions," he said in a written statement. Despite this setback in his personal life, Jackson continues to be a successful advocate for human rights and social change.

For More Information

Haskins, James. Jesse Jackson: Civil Rights Activist. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow, 2000.

Jackson, Jesse. Straight from the Heart. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987.

Landess, Thomas, and Richard Quinn. Jesse Jackson and the Politics of Race. Ottawa, IL: Jameson Books, 1985.

Reynolds, Barbara A. Jesse Jackson: America's David. Washington, DC: JFJ Associates, 1985.

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Jackson, Jesse Louis

Jesse Louis Jackson, 1941–, African-American political leader, clergyman, and civil-rights activist, b. Greenville, S.C. Raised in poverty, he attended the Chicago Theological Seminary (1963–65) and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1968. Active in the civil-rights movement, he became a close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. He served as executive director (1966–71) of Operation Breadbasket, a program of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) that addressed the economic problems of African Americans in northern cities. In 1971 he founded Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), an organization to combat racism. Since 1986 he has been president of the National Rainbow Coalition, an independent political organization aimed at uniting disparate groups—racial minorities, the poor, peace activists, and environmentalists. In 1984 and 1988, Jackson, an effective public speaker, campaigned for the Democratic nomination for president, becoming the first African American to contend seriously for that office. He was elected (1990) as a nonvoting member of the Senate from the District of Columbia and has campaigned for its statehood. He has written Legal Lynching (1996), an attack on capital punishment.

See biography by M. Frady (1996); studies by A. L. Reed, Jr. (1986), E. O. Coulton (1989), A. D. Hertzke (1993), and K. L. Stanford (1997).

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Jackson, Jesse Louis

Jackson, Jesse Louis (1941– ) US politician and civil rights activist. He worked with Martin Luther King in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Jackson served as national director (1967–71) of Operation Breadbasket, an economic arm of the SCLC. In 1971, he formed Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) to combat racism in Chicago. Jackson mounted unsuccessful campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988. In 1986 he became president of the National Rainbow Coalition, which merged with PUSH to form the Rainbow/PUSH coalition in 1996.

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Jackson, Jesse 1941–

Jesse Jackson 1941

Civil rights leader, politician

At a Glance

Joined King and the SCLC in 1965

Ran for President

From D.C. to Wall Street

Diplomatic Efforts

Sought Answers in Suspicious Hanging Death

Never Far From Controversy

Sources

Jesse Jackson has firmly established himself as one of the most dynamic forces for social and political action in both the national and international arenas. He has campaigned for economic justice, human rights, world peace, and the United States presidency. An inspirational speaker, committed activist, and tireless and confident campaigner, Jackson began his career as a foot soldier in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and has developed into a leader of millions of Americansblack and whitea rainbow coalition of the nations dispossessed and disenfranchised.

Jackson has drawn upon his own early experience in Greenville, South Carolina, to relate to his constituency. He was born on October 8, 1941, to a seventeen-year-old unwed high school student and her older, comfortably middle-class neighbor, a married man. Jacksons ancestry includes black slaves, a Cherokee, and a white plantation owner. Although the young Jackson was quite aware of poverty and illegitimacy, his mother, grandmother, and stepfather were always able to attend to family needs. Even so, his knowledge of social inequities and of his more privileged half brothers affected him. As Barbara Reynolds wrote in her biography Jesse Jackson: Americas David: Every teacher Jesse came into contact with took note of his insecurities, masked by a stoic sense of superiority. They never perceived him as brilliant, but rather each saw him as a charmer, a spirited, fierce competitor with an almost uncanny drive to prove himself by always winning, always being number one in everything. At Sterling High School Jackson was elected president of his class, the honor society, and the student council, was named state officer of the Future Teachers of America, finished tenth in his class, and lettered in football, basketball, and baseball.

In 1959 Jackson left the South to attend the University of Illinois on an athletic scholarship. During his first year, however, he became dissatisfied with his treatment on campus and on the gridiron and decided to transfer to Greensboros North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College, a predominantly black institution. There he was quarterback, honor student, fraternity officer, and president of the student body. After receiving his B.A. in sociology he accepted a Rockefeller grant to attend the Chicago Theological Seminary, where he planned to train for the ministry. Jackson was ordained a Baptist minister in 1968, though he had not finished his course work at CTS,

At a Glance

Born Jesse Louis Burns on October 8, 1941, in Greenville, SC; son of Noah Robinson and Helen Burns Jackson; adopted by stepfather, Charles Henry Jackson, 1957; married Jacqueline Lavinia Davis, 1964; children: Santita, Jesse Louis, Jr., Jonathan Luther, Yusef Du Bois, Jacqueline Lavinia; grandchildren: Jessica and Jonathan. Education: Attended University of Illinois, 1959-60; North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College, B.A., 1964; attended Chicago Theological Seminary, 1964-66, awarded M.Div., 2000. Politics: Democrat Religion: Baptist. Ordained Baptist minister, 1968.

Career: Field rep.for (CORE), 1964; SCLC demonstrator, Selma, 1965; Chicago coordinator of Operation Breadbasket, 1966-67, national dir., 1967-71; founder, Operation PUSH, 1971, executive director, 1971-86, founder, PUSH-Excel, PUSH for Economic Justice; Democratie presidential candidate, 1983-84, 1987-88; National Rainbow Coalition Inc., Chicago, founder, 1986, national president, 1986-; senator, District of Columbia, 1991-96; TV host, Voices of America with Jesse Jackson; Chicago radio host; columnist, Los Angeles Times Syndicate; founder, the Wall Street Project, 1997; co-author, Its About Money, 2000.

Awards: Rockefeller grant, c. mid-1960s; Presidential Award, National Medical Assn., 1969; Humanitarian Father of the Year, National Fathers Day Committee, 1971; Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2000; numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities, including Pepperdine, Oberlin, Oral Roberts Univ., Howard, and Georgetown.

Addresses: Office National Rainbow Coalition Inc., 30 West Washington, Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60602.

having instead left in 1966 to commit himself full-time to the Civil Rights movement.

Jackson first became involved in the Civil Rights movement while a student at North Carolina A & T. There he joined the Greensboro chapter of the Council on Racial Equality (CORE), an organization that had led early sit-ins to protest segregated lunch counters. In 1963 Jackson organized numerous marches, sit-ins, and mass arrests to press for the desegregation of local restaurants and theaters. His leadership in these events earned him recognition within the regional movement; he was chosen president of the North Carolina Intercollegiate Council on Human Rights, field director of COREs southeastern operations, and in 1964 served as delegate to the Young Democrats National Convention. In Chicago in 1965 Jackson was a volunteer for the Coordinating Committee of Community Organizations and organized regular meetings of local black ministers and the faculty of the Chicago Theological Seminary.

Joined King and the SCLC in 1965

Jackson joined Martin Luther King, Jr., and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1965 during demonstrations in Selma, Alabama, pushing for expanded voting rights for blacks. When the SCLC launched the Chicago Freedom movement in 1966, Jackson was there to put his knowledge of the city and contacts within the black community to work for King. He organized local ministers to support the movement, marched through all-white neighborhoods to push for open housing, and began work on the SCLCs economic program, Operation Breadbasket. Drawing from successful campaigns in other cities, Operation Breadbasket organized the black community to use selective buying and boycotts to support black manufacturers and retailers and to pressure white-owned businesses to stock more of their products and hire more black workers. Jackson served as Operation Breadbaskets Chicago coordinator for one year and was then named its national director. Under Jacksons leadership the Chicago group won concessions from local dairies and supermarkets to hire more blacks and stock more products from black businesses. It encouraged deposits from businesses and the government for black-owned banks and organized a Black Christmas and a Black Expo to promote black-owned manufacturers.

In addition to his SCLC activities, Jackson led a number of other campaigns in his adopted home city and state. In 1969 and 1970 he gathered Illinoiss malnourished and led them on a march to the state capital to raise consciousness of hunger. He led a similar event in Chicago. The state responded by increasing funding to school lunch programs, but Mayor Richard Daleys machine in Chicago was less cooperative. The mayors power and resistance to change, as well as an Illinois law that raised difficult barriers to independent candidates, prompted Jackson to run for mayor of Chicago in 1971. He was not successful; some believe, however, that his efforts laid the foundation for Harold Washingtons successful bid to become Chicagos first black mayor in 1983.

In 1971 Jackson resigned from the SCLC to found his own organization, People United to Save Humanity (PUSH). Because of his aggressive, impatient, and commanding personality, Jackson had long irritated SCLC leadership; and, in the three and a half years after Kings assassination, he had offended others with his public antics to secure a role as leader of the Civil Rights movement and his feuds with Ralph D. Abernathy, Kings successor as president of the SCLC, over leadership, policy, and funding.

Ran for President

Jackson launched his first campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984. His appeals for social programs, voting rights, and affirmative action for those neglected by Reaganomics earned him strong showings in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C. He received 3.5 million votes, enough to secure a measure of power and respect at the Democratic convention.

Jacksons 1988 campaign for the Democratic nomination was characterized by more organization and funding than his previous attempt. With the experience he gained from 1984 and new resources, Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition surprised the media and the political pundits. Initially written off as unelectable, Jackson emerged in the primary/caucus season as a serious contender for the nomination. He attracted over 6.9 million votesfrom urban blacks and Hispanics, poor rural whites, farmers and factory workers, feminists and homosexuals, and from white progressives wanting to be part of a historic change. In his platform he called for homes for the homeless, comparable worth and day care for working women, a higher minimum wage, a commitment to the family farm, and an all-out war on drugs. When we form a great quilt of unity and common ground he told delegates at the party convention on July 19, 1988, well have the power to bring about health care and housing and jobs and education and hope to our nation.

After early respectable losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, he won five southern states on Super Tuesday, March 8, 1988. On March 12 he won the caucus in his birth state of South Carolina and three days later finished second in his home state of Illinois. On March 26, 1988 Jackson stunned Dukakis and the rest of the nation in the Michigan caucus: Having won that northern industrial state with 55 percent of the vote, Jackson became the Democratic front-runner. Dukakis later recaptured the lead and the eventual nomination with strong showings in the second half of the primary season.

Jackson then exercised the power of his second-place finish to force his consideration as a vice-presidential running mate and to influence the nature of the Democratic Convention and the issues included on its platform. Although Jackson was not chosen as the vice-presidential running mate, he had succeeded in bringing Americans of all colors to consider a black man for the presidency and vice-presidency.

After the 1988 elections Jackson moved his home from Chicago to Washington, D.C. There he has campaigned against homelessness in the nations capital. He was considered one of the top contenders to take over as the capitals mayor after Marion Berry was forced out of office by a drug scandal, but Jackson refused to run. Instead, he announced in July of 1990 that he would seek election as the District of Columbias statehood senator, a position recently established by the city government to push Congress to grant statehood to the district. He was elected in November and sworn into office in January of 1991. Jackson did not seek re-election after his six-year term as statehood senator ended in 1996, although he continued to advocate statehood for the nations capital.

From D.C. to Wall Street

In 1997 Jackson shifted his focus from the nations political capital to its financial capital. Seeing a need for a stronger minority presence on New Yorks Wall Street, Jackson founded the Wall Street Project. The organization lobbied companies to provide more business and employment opportunities for minorities. The Wall Street Project promoted conscientiousness among African American stockholders who may not realize the influence that they have as shareholders. As Jackson explained to Black Enterprise, When you go into a meeting as a shareholder, you now have the right to the floor. Now you can walk into a board meeting and say Mr. Chairman, Id like to see a list of our Board of Directors...a list of our employees so we can see where they fit into this company horizontally and vertically. A stockholder has the power to promote greater employment and business opportunities for African Americans.

Prior to founding the Wall Street Project, Jacksons strategy for influencing corporate behavior had been to organize protests. However, a pivotal event occurred in 1996 which helped Jackson decide to change his tactics. When charges had surfaced that Texaco employees had made racist comments, Jackson called New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, asking him to join him in picketing Texaco. McCall told Black Enterprise that he responded, Jesse, when you own a million shares you dont have to picket. Because McCall controlled New York states investments, he had a great deal of influence with the companies the state had invested in.

With the Wall Street Project, Jackson hopes to give minorities the same influence McCall had with Texaco. Jackson told Black Enterprise. We empower politically with our vote. Now we must empower economically with our dollar. But not just anyone can vote. Only stockholders have a real say in corporate operations. The purchase of just ten shares of stock, Jackson said, provides a shareholder with enough leverage to promote business opportunities for African Americans. As the stocks value increases, so too does the amount of influence a shareholder has.

Diplomatic Efforts

Throughout his career as a political and social activist, Jackson has also been a prominent figure in international diplomacy. In 1979 he traveled to South Africa to speak out against apartheid and to the Middle East to try to establish relations between Israel and the Palestinians. In January of 1984 he returned to the Middle East to negotiate the release of Lieutenant Robert Goodman, a black Navy pilot who had been shot down and taken hostage in the region. Later that year he traveled to Cuba to negotiate the release of several political prisoners held there and to Central America, where he spoke out for regional peace. In 1990 Jackson was the first American to bring hostages out of Iraq and Kuwait.

When three U.S. soldiers serving as part of NATOs forces in Yugoslavia were captured by the Yugoslav army in March of 1999, Jackson, along with an inter faith delegation, embarked on a diplomatic mission to negotiate their release. U.S. national security advisor Sandy Berger warned Jackson, as a private citizen, he did not have the authority to offer Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosovic any concessions on behalf of the United States. Berger also warned that Jacksons safety could not be guaranteed. Despite these warnings, Jackson, confident that he could persuade Milsocovic to release the prisoners as a gesture of goodwill, set off on his diplomatic mission. Jacksons confidence was not unfounded and when Jackson returned it was with the three soldiers at his side. The U.S. Senate recognized Jacksons efforts with a commendation.

In May of 1999, Jackson traveled to war-torn Sierra Leone, where he negotiated a cease-fire agreement between Tejan Kabbah, the countrys president, and rebel Foday Sankoh. Jackson also negotiated for the release of more than two thousand prisoners of war. One year later, he returned to Sierra Leone to assist once more in the countrys peace process.

Sought Answers in Suspicious Hanging Death

When teenager Raynard Johnson was found hanging by a belt from the pecan tree in front of his home in Kokomo, Mississippi, in 2000, suspicions arose immediately that his death may have been a lynching. Although medical examiners found no evidence of struggle, Johnsons parents could not believe that their son had committed suicide. Jackson did not believe the boys death was a suicide either. He told Jet, He had just gotten a computer. He was outgoing. He was in the Top 5 percentile on his test scores. He was very bright....A lot of signs point upwards. He was excited about life.

Jacksons Rainbow Coalition/PUSH launched its own investigation into Johnsons death. Jacksons investigators identified several people who could have been involved in the teenagers death and said that someone may have been angered by Johnsons friendship with two white girls. Authorities, however, said that Johnsons girlfriend had broken up with him shortly before his death and contended that all the evidence was consistent with suicide.

In 2000, Jackson, along with his son, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., published Its About the Money!: How You Can Get Out of Debt, Build Wealth, and Achieve Your Financial Dreams! The book is a how-to guide for financial independence and security. Jackson explained to Mother Jones that economic self-sufficiency is a vital base for the struggle for freedom. It costs to send children to college, Jackson said. It costs to have health insurance. Yet, in a culture of credit card debt, so many Americans do not understand basic economics. With his book, Jackson hoped to change that.

Never Far From Controversy

Jackson has stirred both admiration and criticism. His behavior in the hours immediately following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., was a subject of controversy: Jackson claimed that he had held the dying leader, heard his last words, and had his shirt stained by Kings blood. Other SCLC officers present at the murder have disputed those claims. As an organizer Jackson often overstepped his authority in SCLC matters and violated organization policy in a number of his Chicago campaigns. His economic boycotts were criticized by some businessmen as extortion and by some reformers for lacking follow-through. The management of PUSHs people and finances were the subject of close scrutiny and the freewheeling nature of the organization was regularly called into question. Jackson offended some Americans by negotiating with the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), Fidel Castro, and the Marxist Sandinista govenrment of Nicaragua. Jacksons connection with the Black Muslim leader and outspoken anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, as well as the candidates reference to New York City as Hymietown, outraged Jews.

However, the same driving ambition to achieve success that is the root of Jacksons weaknesses is also the source of his strength. He is a tireless worker who is fiercely committed to his causes, even when bedriddenJackson suffers from sickle-cell trait. He is an intelligent, creative, and charismatic leader, and an inspirational speaker capable of archiving numerous details, then using them to encapsulate his agenda along with the aspirations of many Americans. He has a flair for the dramatic that infuses an increasingly tedious political process with life. And finally, Jackson acts while others talk of action. He has become the leading spokesman for Americans forgotten by the power brokers of the political process, especially blacks. In a 1996 speech, Jackson said, If you go along and get along, youre a coward. Only by principled engagement can you be a force for change and hope. Jacksons life has been one of principled engagement.

Sources

Books

Abernathy, Ralph David, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Harper, 1989.

Colton, Elizabeth O., The Jackson Phenomenon: The Man, the Power, the Message, Doubleday, 1989.

Reynolds, Barbara A., Jesse Jackson: Americas David, JFJ Associates, 1985.

Periodicals

Africa News Service, May 24, 1999; May 17, 2000.

Black Enterprise, October 1998.

Business Wire, January 5, 2000.

Christian Science Monitor, August 15, 1989.

Commonweal, November 7, 1986.

Ebony, February 1999.

Harpers Magazine, March 1969.

Jet, July 22, 1996; May 24, 1999; December 27, 1999; June 19, 2000; July, 17, 2000; August 28, 2000; September 4, 2000.

Mother Jones, March 2000.

Newsweek, April 4, 1988; October 16, 1989; January 29, 1990; May 10, 1999.

United Press International, May 4, 1999; May 10, 1999.

Vanity Fair, January 1988. Vital Speeches, September 15, 1996.

Bryan Ryan and Jennifer M. York

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