Keywords: history, Black History Month, BHM
Born: October 8, 1941
Background/significance: Jesse Jackson Sr. is a civil rights leader, politician and minister. His work from his days as a young man with Martin Luther King Jr., through his role in politics in the 1980s and ’90s to today with his work for social justice around the world, has left an indelible mark upon this country's struggle for civil rights for African-Americans, women and gay people.
Jackson was born Jesse Louis Burns in Greenville in 1941. His mother was 16 years old at the time, and his father was a married man. His grandmother raised him until he was 13, when he was adopted by his stepfather, Charles Jackson.
Jackson grew up in the highly segregated Jim Crow south, experiencing firsthand the sub-par schools and the everyday racism of that time. He began his civil rights work by trying to desegregate the public library.
He graduated from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, where he served as student class president and football quarterback, and joined the Congress of Racial Equality.
After graduation, he attended the Chicago Theological Seminary to study for the ministry. While there, he began to work for King. After a year, he put his divinity school studies on hold to work for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He was the leader of SCLC's Operation Breadbasket, though his time at SCLC was marked with disputes and some controversy.
Jackson was in Memphis with King when he was assassinated in 1968.
In 1971, Jackson left SCLC, and founded PUSH — People United to Save Humanity. In 1984, he founded the Rainbow Coalition, a group dedicated to equal rights for African-Americans, gays and women.
In 1984, he also ran for president of the United States, coming in third in the Democratic national convention. He ran again in 1988, coming in second at the convention. In 1990, he was elected as a shadow senator from Washington, DC, and lobbied for DC statehood in this role. His campaigns generated much support and excitement but controversy as well, for some of the remarks Jackson made while campaigning.
Throughout this time, Jackson was also busy working as an international negotiator.
He is still working to ensure voting rights, battling poverty and speaking out on a variety of topics, from Medicaid expansion to minority businesses.
Brash, outspoken and controversial, Jackson has always worked to right the wrongs he sees around him. In 2000, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also finally finished the divinity degree he had put on hold all those years ago.
South Carolina connection: Jackson was born and grew up in Greenville.
Discover more: http://rainbowpush.org/pages/jackson_bio
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