- NAME: Jesse Jackson
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist, Minister, Journalist
- BIRTH DATE: October 08, 1941 (Age: 72)
- EDUCATION: University of Illinois, Chicago Theological Seminary, Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina (now the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University)
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Greenville, South Carolina
- Originally: Jesse Louis Burns
- AKA: Jesse Jackson
- ZODIAC SIGN: Libra
Best Known For
Jesse Jackson is an American civil rights leader, Baptist minister and politician who twice ran for U.S. president.
Political Activism in Harlem (2:14)
A'lelia Bundles, a former producer for NBC News, talks about covering Jesse Jackson's 1984 campaign and his populist message to voters that they could make a difference.
Jesse Jackson saw the injustice of segregation and worked for Dr. Martin Luther King. Jackson fought for equal rights through his organizations, Operation PUSH and the Rainbow Coalition, and in 1984 and 1988, he ran for President.
Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, discusses famous figures who contributed to the history of political activism in Harlem.
Watch a short video about Martin Luther King, Jr. to learn how this advocate for peace and equality inherited his name from his father.
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While King, at first, was enamored with the brashness of the young leader, not everyone in the organization felt the same way. Many felt that Jackson acted too independently, and eventually King came to tire of him as well. Just five days before his assassination, King stormed out of a meeting after Jackson had repeatedly interrupted him.
Still, Jackson traveled with King to Memphis, where King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his hotel room. Jackson,
who was in a room one floor below King's, later told reporters he was the last to talk to Dr. King, who passed away, he claimed, in his arms. The events, as Jackson described them, immediately set off a wave of anger among others who were at the scene and claimed Jackson had overstated his presence at King's shooting for his own gain.
Jackson was eventually suspended by the SCLC. He formally resigned from the organization in 1971.
The same year Jackson left the SCLC, he founded Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity). Jackson created the organization, based in Chicago, in order to advocate black self-help and in a sense serve as Jackson's political pulpit. In 1984 Jackson established the National Rainbow Coalition, whose mission was to establish equal rights for African-Americans, women and homosexuals. The two organizations merged in 1996 to form the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.
As Jackson's national profile increased, so did his political involvement. Beginning in the late 1970s he began traveling around the world to mediate or spotlight problems and disputes. He visited South Africa in 1979 and spoke out against the country's apartheid policies, and later traveled to the Middle East to throw his support behind the creation of a Palestinian state. He also got behind democratic efforts in the small island nation of Haiti.
In 1984 Jesse Jackson became the second African-American (Shirley Chisholm preceded him) to make a national run for the U.S. presidency. The campaign was historic in terms of its success. Jackson placed third in the Democratic primary voting and garnered a total of 3.5 million votes, surpassing Chisholm's ballot success.
But the campaign also sparked some controversy when in January 1984, Jackson, in an interview with a Washington Post reporter, referred to Jews as "Hymies" and to New York City as "Hymietown." Protests erupted, and Jackson apologized for the remarks one month later.
In 1988 Jackson made a second presidential run, this time finishing second in the Democratic primaries to Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, winning more than seven million votes.
While Jackson declined to run for the U.S. presidency again, he's continued to be a force on the political stage. He has continued to push for African-American rights and has been a featured speaker at Democratic conventions.
In 1990 he won his first election, when he captured one of two special unpaid "statehood senator" posts created by the Washington City Council in order to lobby the U.S. Congress for statehood for the District of Columbia.
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