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Jesse  Jackson

Jesse Jackson

Civil Rights Activist & Politician


The Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, president and founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, is one of America’s foremost political figures. Called the “conscience of the nation” and “the great unifier,” he challenges Americans to establish just and humane priorities and is known for bringing people together across lines of race, class, gender, and belief. Read More >

An assistant to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Jackson directed Operation Breadbasket and subsequently founded People United to Save Humanity (PUSH) in Chicago in 1971 to expand educational and employment opportunities for the disadvantaged and communities of color. He then founded the National Rainbow Coalition in 1984, a national social justice organization devoted to political empowerment, education, and changing public policy. The Rainbow Coalition and Operation PUSH merged into the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition in September 1996 to continue both philosophies and maximize their resources.

Reverend Jackson advocated for national healthcare, a war on drugs, dialogue with the Soviet Union, and negotiations with the Middle East long before they were popular positions, and effectively brought South African apartheid and the fight for democracy in Haiti to the forefront of the national conscience. A hallmark of his work has been his commitment to youth—inspiring hope and challenging young people to award themselves with academic excellence and to stay drug-free—and the American labor movement—working with unions to organize workers and mediate labor disputes.

A renowned orator, Reverend Jackson has received numerous honors for his work in human and civil rights and for non-violent social change.

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. Following his graduation from North Carolina A&T, he attended Chicago Theological Seminary until he joined the Civil Rights Movement full time in 1965.

Reverend Jackson’s two presidential campaigns broke new ground in US 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, helping 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. He 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 and in 1999 he negotiated and secured the release of US soldiers being held hostage in Kosovo.

 Reverend Jackson achieved an impressive victory in 1990 when he was elected to the post of US senator from Washington, DC, a position also known as “Statehood Senator.” The office was created to advocate for statehood for the District of Columbia, which despite having a larger population than five states had no voting representation in Congress.

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 and Straight from the Heart. He co-authored the books Legal Lynching: Racism, Injustice, and the Death Penalty and It’s About The Money! with his son US Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr.

Reverend Jackson was appointed by President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in October 1997 as “Special Envoy of the President and Secretary of State for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa.” His position as special envoy resulted in travels 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. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton in 2000.

The US Post Office put his likeness on a pictorial postal cancellation in 1991, making him 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. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Filmed at APB: Jesse Jackson's Newest Mission

Speech Topics

With Justice for All: Human Rights and Civil Rights At Home and Abroad

Making the American Dream a Reality for All Countries Including the US

Straight from the Heart

Keep Hope Alive

Books & Media


It's About the Money!

Connect with Jesse Jackson