Jesse Jackson is a famous Civil Rights leader, often considered to be one of the greatest. He believes that African Americans should get more political power. He fought for that power by being the second black American to run for President (the first was Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm in 1972 but wasn't a factor in the election). He was the first African-American to be a contender in a presidential election. Throughout the Civil Rights
Movement he was always known as the man that TOOK action with what was given to him.
was born Jesse Louis Burns in 1941 in Greenville, South Carolina. He was born to the parents of Helen Burns and Noah Robinson. His mother remarried two years later to a man named Charles Jackson (Jesse later in life changed his name to Jesse Louis Jackson because of his stepfather). He graduated from Sterling High School and received a football scholarship to the University of Illinois. During his first year, he became dissatisfied with his treatment on the campus and on the field. He was told that as a black he could not expect to play quarterback. Less than a year later, Jesse decided to finish his college years in the south, thus transferring to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Jackson first became involved in the Civil Rights movement
while a student at North Carolina A&T. There at NC A&T 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 early 1963 Jackson organized numerous marches, sit-ins, and mass arrests to press for the desegregation of local restaurants and theaters (Frady 23). 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 CORE's southeastern operations, and in 1964 served as delegate to the Young Democrats National Convention. There he became active in sit-ins with other students at the college.
In June of 1963, he graduated from college just as massive civil rights demonstrations gripped Birmingham, Alabama, and other Southern cities. As a leader of the campus chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, Jackson had declared his willingness to go to jail or to the chain gang if necessary. He led 278 civil rights demonstrators who were arrested in Greensboro (Frady 36).
By this time, Jesse was torn between a desire to prepare for the ministry and a determination to be at the Civil Rights Movement's front lines. He soon enrolled for study at Chicago Theological Seminary. In 1965 he enlisted in the voting rights campaign of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Selma, Alabama, where he first met Martin Luther King, Jr. Afterwards, Jackson returned to Chicago to play an important role in its civil rights campaign. From 1966 to 1971, he directed SCLC's Operation Breadbasket, which encouraged private industries to end employment discrimination and sought contracts for black businesses with the threat of an economic boycott (Frady 67). As an SCLC staff member (head of Chicago's Operation Breadbasket) Jackson was very young and ambitious. When the SCLC launched the Chicago Freedom movement of 1966, Jackson was there to put his knowledge of the city and contacts within the black community to work for King. He was inspired by that of Dr. Martin Luther King jr., often found to be by his side very frequently and taking in all the knowledge that Martin would give him. He was at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis when King was assassinated, but his claim to have cradled the fallen leader when he was shot and his wearing a shirt with King's blood on it for days after the assassination irritated many SCLC insiders as crass exploitation of the tragedy. He would later be removed from the SCLC in 1971 (Timmerman 123).
After the fall-out with the SCLC, Jesse went on to find his own organization, PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), which would continue to work for improving African-Americans' lives in a variety of fronts and combat against racism. 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(Frady 139). The 70s 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.
Jesse Jackson is still alive today, and since the civil rights movement he has had his hands in a share of things. He has run for president, founded the Wall Street Project, and has been a prominent figure in international diplomacy (Stanford 57). In 2000, along with his son, he published It's About the Money!: How You Can Get Out of Debt, Build Wealth, and Achieve Your Financial Dreams! The book is a hot-to guide for financial independence and security(Timmerman 323).
Although Jackson was viewed by some as the potential successor to Martin Luther King as the leader in the struggle for rights, he never quite gained the full support of all elements of the black community. However, Jesse Jackson has become the leading spokesman for Americans forgotten by the power brokers of the political process, especially blacks. He will be remembered from the Civil Rights Movement as a powerful voice that enforced action while others TALKED of it.