|United States Shadow Senator
from the District of Columbia
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 1997
|Preceded by||Seat established|
|Succeeded by||Paul Strauss|
|Born||Jesse Louis Burns
October 8, 1941
Greenville, South Carolina, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Jacqueline Brown (m. 1962)|
|Children||6, including Santita, Jesse Jr., and Jonathan Jackson|
|Education||University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (BS)
Chicago Theological Seminary (MDiv)
Jesse Louis Jackson Sr. (né Burns; born October 8, 1941) is an American civil rights activist, Baptist minister, and politician. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and served as a shadow U.S. Senator for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997.
He is the founder of the organizations that merged to form Rainbow/PUSH. Former U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. is his eldest son. Jackson was also the host of Both Sides with Jesse Jackson on CNN from 1992 to 2000.
Jackson was born in Greenville, South Carolina, to Helen Burns (1924–2015), a 16-year-old high school student, and her 33-year-old married neighbor, Noah Louis Robinson (1908-1997). The family has some Cherokee roots. Robinson was a former professional boxer who was an employee of a textile brokerage and a well-known figure in the black community. One year after Jesse's birth, his mother married Charles Henry Jackson, a post office maintenance worker who later adopted the boy. Jesse was given his stepfather's name in the adoption, but as he grew up, he also maintained a close relationship with Robinson. He considered both men to be his father.
As a young child, Jackson was taunted by the other children regarding his out-of-wedlock birth, and has said these experiences helped motivate him to succeed. Living under Jim Crow segregation laws, Jackson was taught to go to the back of the bus and use separate water fountains – practices he accepted until the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. He attended the racially segregated Sterling High School in Greenville, where he was elected student class president, finished tenth in his class, and earned letters in baseball, football and basketball.
Upon graduating from high school in 1959, he rejected a contract from a minor league professional baseball team so that he could attend the University of Illinois on a football scholarship. Following his second semester at the predominantly white University of Illinois, Jackson transferred to the North Carolina A&T, an historically black university located in Greensboro, North Carolina. There are differing accounts of the reasons behind this transfer. Jackson has claimed that he changed schools because racial prejudice prevented him from playing quarterback and limited his participation on a competitive public-speaking team.
Writing on ESPN.com in 2002, sociologist Harry Edwards noted that the University of Illinois had previously had a black quarterback, but also noted that black athletes attending traditionally white colleges during the 1950s and 1960s encountered a "combination of culture shock and discrimination". Edwards also suggested that Jackson had left the University of Illinois in 1960 because he had been placed on academic probation. However, the president of the University of Illinois reported in 1987 that Jackson's 1960 freshman year transcript was clean, and said he would have been eligible to re-enroll at any time.
While attending A&T, Jackson played quarterback and was elected student body president. He became active in local civil rights protests against segregated libraries, theaters and restaurants. He graduated with a B.S. in sociology in 1964, then attended the Chicago Theological Seminary on a scholarship. He dropped out in 1966, three classes short of earning his master's degree, to focus full-time on the Civil Rights Movement. He was ordained a minister in 1968, and in 2000, was awarded his Master of Divinity Degree based on his previous credits earned, plus his life experience and subsequent work.
Jackson has been known for commanding public attention since he first started working for Martin Luther King Jr. In 1965, Jackson participated in the Selma to Montgomery marches organized by James Bevel, King and other civil rights leaders in Alabama. Impressed by Jackson's drive and organizational abilities, King soon began giving Jackson a role in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), though he was concerned about Jackson's apparent ambition and attention-seeking. When Jackson returned from Selma, he was charged with establishing a frontline office for the SCLC in Chicago.
In 1966, King and Bevel selected Jackson to head the Chicago branch of the SCLC's economic arm, Operation Breadbasket and he was promoted to national director in 1967. Operation Breadbasket had been started by the Atlanta leadership of the SCLC as a job placement agency for blacks. Under Jackson's leadership, a key goal was to encourage massive boycotts by black consumers as a means to pressure white-owned businesses to hire blacks and to purchase goods and services from black-owned firms.
T. R. M. Howard, a 1950s proponent of the consumer boycott tactic, soon became a major supporter of Jackson's efforts – donating and raising funds, and introducing Jackson to prominent members of the black business community in Chicago. Under Jackson's direction, Operation Breadbasket held popular weekly workshops on Chicago's South Side featuring white and black political and economic leaders, and religious services complete with a jazz band and choir.
Jackson became involved in SCLC leadership disputes following the assassination of King on April 4, 1968. When King was shot, Jackson was in the parking lot one floor below. Jackson told reporters he was the last person to speak to King, and that King died in his arms – an account that several King aides disputed. In the wake of King's death, Jackson worked on SCLC's Poor People's Crusade in Washington, D.C., and was credited with managing its 15-acre tent city – but he began to increasingly clash with Ralph Abernathy, King's successor as chairman of the SCLC. In 1969, The New York Times reported that Jackson was being viewed as King's successor by several black leaders and that Jackson was one of the few black activists who was preaching racial reconciliation.
Jackson was also reportedly seeking coalition with whites in order to approach what were considered racial problems as economic and class problems, "When we change the race problem into a class fight between the haves and the have-nots, then we are going to have a new ball game", he said. In the 21st century, some public school systems are working on an approach for affirmative action that deals with family income rather than race, recognizing that some minority members have been very successful. The Times also indicated that Jackson was being criticized as too involved with middle-class blacks, and for having an unattainable goal of racial unity.
In the spring of 1971, Abernathy ordered Jackson to move the national office of Operation Breadbasket from Chicago to Atlanta and sought to place another person in charge of local Chicago activities, but Jackson refused to move. He organized the October 1971 Black Expo in Chicago, a trade and business fair to promote black capitalism and grass roots political power. The five-day event was attended by black businessmen from 40 states, as well as politicians such as Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes, and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. Daley's presence was seen as a testament to the growing political and economic power of blacks.
In December 1971, Jackson and Abernathy had a complete falling out, with the split described as part of a leadership struggle between Jackson, who had a national profile, and Abernathy, whose prominence from the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to wane. The break began when Abernathy questioned the handling of receipts from the Black Expo, and then suspended Jackson as leader of Operation Breadbasket for not obtaining permission to form non-profit corporations. Al Sharpton, then youth group leader of the SCLC, left the organization to protest Jackson's treatment and formed the National Youth Movement. Jackson, his entire Breadbasket staff, and 30 of the 35 board members resigned from the SCLC and began planning a new organization. Time magazine quoted Jackson as saying at that time that the traditional civil rights movement had lost its "offensive thrust."
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People United to Save Humanity (Operation PUSH) officially began operations on December 25, 1971; Jackson later changed the name to People United to Serve Humanity. T. R. M. Howard was installed as a member of the board of directors and chair of the finance committee. At its inception, Jackson planned to orient Operation PUSH toward politics and to pressure politicians to work to improve economic opportunities for blacks and poor people of all races. SCLC officials reportedly felt the new organization would help black businesses more than it would help the poor.
In 1978 Jackson called for a closer relationship between blacks and the Republican Party, telling the Party's National Committee that "Black people need the Republican Party to compete for us so we can have real alternatives ... The Republican Party needs black people if it is ever to compete for national office."
In 1983 Jackson and Operation PUSH led a boycott against beer giant Anheuser-Busch, criticizing the company's level of minority employment in their distribution network. August Busch IV, Anheuser-Busch's CEO was introduced in 1996 to Yusef Jackson, Jesse's son, by Jackson family friend Ron Burkle. In 1998 Yusef and his brother Jonathan were chosen by Anheuser-Busch to head River North Sales, a Chicago beer distribution company, leading to controversy. "There is no causal connection between the boycott in 1983 and me meeting in the middle '90s and me buying this company in 1998," said Yusef.
In 1984, Jackson organized the Rainbow Coalition and resigned his post as president of Operation PUSH in 1984 to run for president of the United States, though he remained involved as chairman of the board. PUSH's activities were described in 1987 as conducting boycotts of business to induce them to provide more jobs and business to blacks and as running programs for housing, social services and voter registration. The organization was funded by contributions from businesses and individuals. In early 1987 the continued existence of Operation PUSH was imperiled by debt, a fact that was used by Jackson's political opponents during his race for the 1988 Democratic Party nomination. In 1996, the Operation PUSH and Rainbow Coalition organizations were merged.
Jackson's influence extended to international matters in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1983, Jackson traveled to Syria to secure the release of a captured American pilot, Navy Lt. Robert Goodman who was being held by the Syrian government. Goodman had been shot down over Lebanon while on a mission to bomb Syrian positions in that country. After a dramatic personal appeal that Jackson made to Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, Goodman was released. Initially, the Reagan administration was skeptical about Jackson's trip to Syria. However, after Jackson secured Goodman's release, United States President Ronald Reagan welcomed both Jackson and Goodman to the White House on January 4, 1984. This helped to boost Jackson's popularity as an American patriot and served as a springboard for his 1984 presidential run. In June 1984, Jackson negotiated the release of twenty-two Americans being held in Cuba after an invitation by Cuban president Fidel Castro.
On the eve of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Jackson made a trip to Iraq, to plead to Saddam Hussein for the release of foreign nationals held there as a "human shield", securing the release of several British and twenty American individuals.
He traveled to Kenya in 1997 to meet with Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi as United States President Bill Clinton's special envoy for democracy to promote free and fair elections. In April 1999, during the Kosovo War, Jackson traveled to Belgrade to negotiate the release of three U.S. POWs captured on the Macedonian border while patrolling with a UN peacekeeping unit. He met with the then-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević, who later agreed to release the three men.
His international efforts continued into the 2000s. On February 15, 2003, Jackson spoke in front of over an estimated one million people in Hyde Park, London at the culmination of the anti-war demonstration against the imminent invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and the United Kingdom. In November 2004, Jackson visited senior politicians and community activists in Northern Ireland in an effort to encourage better cross-community relations and rebuild the peace process and restore the governmental institutions of the Belfast Agreement.
In August 2005, Jackson traveled to Venezuela to meet Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, following controversial remarks by televangelist Pat Robertson in which he implied that Chávez should be assassinated. Jackson condemned Robertson's remarks as immoral. After meeting with Chávez and addressing the Venezuelan Parliament, Jackson said that there was no evidence that Venezuela posed a threat to the U.S. Jackson also met representatives from the Afro Venezuela and indigenous communities.
In 2005, he was enlisted as part of the United Kingdom's "Operation Black Vote", a campaign run by Simon Woolley to encourage more of Britain's ethnic minorities to vote in political elections ahead of the May 2005 General Election.
Jackson served as a speaker for The International Peace Foundation in 2009 on the topic "Building a culture of peace and development in a globalized world". He visited multiple locations in Malaysia, including the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in Thailand, including NIST International School in Bangkok.
During the 1980s, he achieved wide fame as a politician, as well as becoming a well-known spokesman for civil rights issues. In 1980 for example, Jackson mediated in a firefighters' strike.
On November 3, 1983, Jackson announced his campaign for President of the United States in the 1984 election, becoming the second African American (after Shirley Chisholm) to mount a nationwide campaign for president.
In the Democratic Party primaries, Jackson, who had been written off by pundits as a fringe candidate with little chance at winning the nomination, surprised many when he took third place behind Senator Gary Hart and former Vice President Walter Mondale, who eventually won the nomination. Jackson garnered 3,282,431 primary votes, or 18.2 percent of the total, in 1984, and won three to five primaries and caucuses, including Louisiana, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and one of two separate contests in Mississippi. More Virginia caucus-goers supported Jesse Jackson than any other candidate, but Walter Mondale won more Virginia delegates.
In May 1988, Jackson complained that he had won 21% of the popular vote but was awarded only 9% of the delegates. He afterwards stated that he had been handicapped by party rules. While Mondale (in the words of his aides) was determined to establish a precedent with his vice presidential candidate by picking a woman or visible minority, Jackson criticized the screening process as a "p.r. parade of personalities". He also mocked Mondale, saying that Hubert Humphrey was the "last significant politician out of the St. Paul–Minneapolis" area.
Jackson was criticized in the early 1980s for referring to Jews as "Hymies" and New York City as "Hymietown" in remarks to a black Washington Post reporter. (Hymie is a pejorative term for Jews.) Jackson mistakenly assumed the references would not be printed. Louis Farrakhan made the situation worse by issuing, in Jackson's presence, a public warning to Jews that "If you harm this brother [Jackson], it will be the last one you harm." Jackson made a public apology to Jews for the pejorative remarks, but Jackson refused to denounce Farrakhan's warning to Jews. Jackson apologized during a speech before national Jewish leaders in a Manchester, New Hampshire synagogue, but an enduring split between Jackson and many in the Jewish community continued at least through the 1990s.
Jackson also made other remarks evidencing a negative attitude toward Jews including saying that Richard Nixon was less attentive to poverty in the U.S. because "four out of five [of Nixon's top advisers] are German Jews and their priorities are on Europe and Asia"; that he was "sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust"; and that there are "very few Jewish reporters that have the capacity to be objective about Arab affairs".
Shortly after President Jimmy Carter fired U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young for meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization representatives, Jackson and other black leaders began publicly endorsing a Palestinian state, with Jackson calling Israel's prime minister a "terrorist", and then soliciting Arab-American financial support. Jackson has since apologized for some of these remarks, but they badly damaged his presidential campaign, as "Jackson was seen by many conservatives in the United States as hostile to Israel and far too close to Arab governments."
According to a 1987 New York Times article, Jackson began attempting to improve his relationship with the Jewish community after 1984. In 2000, he was invited to speak in support of Jewish Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman at the Democratic National Convention.
In 1988, Jackson again sought the Democratic Party presidential nomination. According to a November 1987 article in The New York Times, "Most political analysts give him little chance of being nominated – partly because he is black, partly because of his unretrenched liberalism." However, his successes in the past made him a more credible candidate, and he was both better financed and better organized than in 1984. Jackson once again exceeded expectations as he more than doubled his previous results, prompting R.W. Apple of The New York Times to call 1988 "the Year of Jackson".
In early 1988, Jackson organized a rally at the former American Motors assembly plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, approximately two weeks after new owner Chrysler announced it would close the plant by the end of the year. In his speech, Jackson spoke out against Chrysler's decision, stating "We have to put the focus on Kenosha, Wisconsin, as the place, here and now, where we draw the line to end economic violence!" and compared the workers' fight to that of the 1965 Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. As a result, the UAW Local 72 union voted to endorse his candidacy, even against the rules of the UAW.
Briefly, after he won 55% of the vote in the Michigan Democratic caucus, he was considered the frontrunner for the nomination, as he surpassed all the other candidates in total number of pledged delegates. Jackson's campaign suffered a significant setback less than two weeks after the UAW endorsement when he narrowly lost the Colorado primary to Michael Dukakis, and was defeated handily the following day in the Wisconsin primary by Dukakis. Jackson's showing among white voters in Wisconsin was significantly higher than in his 1984 run, but was also noticeably lower than pre-primary polling had predicted. The back-to-back victories established Dukakis as the clear Democratic frontrunner, and he went on to claim the party's nomination, but lost the general election in November.
Jackson's campaign had also been interrupted by allegations regarding his half-brother Noah Robinson Jr.'s criminal activity. Jackson had to answer frequent questions about Noah, who was often referred to as "the Billy Carter of the Jackson campaign".
At the conclusion of the Democratic primary season, Jackson had captured 6.9 million votes and won 11 contests; seven primaries (Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Virginia) and four caucuses (Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina and Vermont). Jackson also scored March victories in Alaska's caucuses and Texas's local conventions, despite losing the Texas primary.
In both races, Jackson ran on what many considered to be a very liberal platform. In 1987, The New York Times described him as " a classic liberal in the tradition of the New Deal and the Great Society". Declaring that he wanted to create a "Rainbow Coalition" of various minority groups, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Arab-Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, family farmers, the poor and working class, and homosexuals, as well as European American progressives who fit into none of those categories, Jackson ran on a platform that included:
With the exception of a resolution to implement sanctions against South Africa for its apartheid policies, none of these positions made it into the party's platform in either 1984 or 1988.
Although Jackson was one of the most liberal members of the Democratic Party, his position on abortion was originally more in line with pro-life views. Within one month after the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, legalized abortion, Jackson began a PUSH campaign against the decision, calling abortion murder and declaring that Jesus and Moses might not have been born if abortion had been available in ancient times. Jackson's strong rhetoric on abortion temporarily alienated one of his major supporters, T. R. M Howard, a black physician who made a living from performing abortions.
In 1975, Jackson endorsed a plan for a constitutional amendment banning abortion. He also endorsed the Hyde Amendment, which bars the funding of abortions through the federal Medicaid program. Writing in a 1977 National Right to Life Committee News report, Jackson argued that the basis for Roe v. Wade – the right to privacy – was also a premise that had been used to justify slavery and the treatment of slaves on the plantations. Jackson decried what he believed was the casual taking of life, and the decline in society's value system. However, Jackson later adopted a pro-choice view that abortion is a right and that the government should not prevent a woman from having an abortion.
He ran for office as "shadow senator" for the District of Columbia when the position was created in 1991, and served as such through 1997, when he did not run for re-election. This unpaid position was primarily a post to lobby for statehood for the District of Columbia.
In the mid-1990s, he was approached about being the United States Ambassador to South Africa but declined the opportunity in favor of helping his son Jesse Jackson Jr. run for the United States House of Representatives.
Jackson was initially critical of the "Third Way" or more moderate policies of Bill Clinton, so much so that, according to journalist Peter Beinart, Clinton was "petrified about a primary challenge from" Jackson in the 1996 election. However, he became a key ally in gaining African American support for Clinton and eventually became a close adviser and friend of the Clinton family. His son, Jesse Jackson Jr., also emerged as a political figure, becoming a member of the United States House of Representatives from Illinois.
On May 2, 1999, during the Kosovo war, three US soldiers who had been held captive were released as a result of talks with Jackson. Jackson's negotiation was not sanctioned by the Clinton Administration.
On November 18, 1999, seven Decatur, Illinois high school students were expelled for two years after participating in a brawl at a football game. The incident was caught on home video and became a national media event when CNN ran pictures of the fight. After the students were expelled, Jackson spoke out arguing that the expulsions were unfair and racially biased. He called on the school board to reverse their decision.
On January 20, 2001, Bill Clinton's final day in office, Jackson had petitioned Clinton for the pardons of Congressman Mel Reynolds, John Bustamante, and Dorothy Rivers, all of which were approved. Jesse requested a fourth pardon, for his half-brother Noah Robinson, who had been convicted of murdering Leroy Barber and sentenced to life imprisonment. This was the only pardon Clinton disapproved as Robinson had submitted three pardon appeals prior, all of which were denied by the Justice Department.
In March 2006, an African-American woman accused three white members of the Duke University men's lacrosse team of raping her. During the ensuing controversy, Jackson stated that his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition would pay for the rest of her college tuition regardless of the outcome of the case. The case against the three men was later thrown out and the players were declared innocent by the North Carolina Attorney General.
Jackson took a key role in the scandal caused by comedic actor Michael Richards' racially charged comments in November 2006. Richards called Jackson a few days after the incident to apologize; Jackson accepted Richards' apology and met with him publicly as a means of resolving the situation. Jackson also joined black leaders in a call for the elimination of the "N-word" throughout the entertainment industry.
On June 23, 2007, Jackson was arrested in connection with a protest at a gun store in Riverdale, a poor suburb of Chicago, Illinois. Jackson and others were protesting due to allegations that the gun store had been selling firearms to local gang members and was contributing to the decay of the community. According to police reports, Jackson refused to stop blocking the front entrance of the store and let customers pass. He was charged with one count of criminal trespass to property.
In March 2007, Jackson declared his support for then-Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 democratic primaries. Jackson later criticized Obama in 2007 for "acting like he's white," in response to the Jena 6 beating case.
On July 6, 2008, during an interview with Fox News, a microphone picked up Jackson whispering to fellow guest Reed Tuckson: "See, Barack's been, ahh, talking down to black people on this faith-based... I want to cut his nuts off." Jackson was expressing his disappointment in Obama's Father's Day speech chastisement of black fathers. Subsequent to his Fox News interview, Jackson apologized and reiterated his support for Obama.
Jackson has commended Obama's 2012 decision to support gay marriage and has compared the fight for same-sex marriage to fight against slavery and the anti-miscegenation laws that once prevented interracial marriage. He would be in favor of federal legislation extending marriage rights to gays, because he feels that if this issue is left up to the states, some states will continue to deny gays equal protection and equal rights.
|Reubin O'Donovan Askew||52,759||0.29|
|Thomas F. Eagleton||18||0.46|
|Paul M. Simon||1,082,960||4.65|
|Douglas E. Applegate||25,068||0.11|
|Richard H. Stallings||3||0.07|
|Jesse Jackson (D)||105,633||46.80|
|Florence Pendleton (D)||58,451||25.89|
|Harry T. Alexander (I)||13,983||6.19|
|Milton Francis (R)||13,538||6.00|
|Joan Gillison (R)||12,845||5.69|
|Keith M. Wilkerson (D.C. Statehood)||4,545||2.01|
|Anthony W. Peacock (D.C. Statehood)||4,285||1.90|
|John West (I)||3,621||1.60|
|David L. Whitehead (I)||3,341||1.48|
|Sam Manuel (Socialist Workers)||2,765||1.23|
In 1991, Jackson received the American Whig-Cliosophic Society's James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service.
In 2008, Jackson was presented with an Honorary Fellowship from Edge Hill University.
In an AP-AOL "Black Voices" poll in February 2006, Jackson was voted "the most important black leader".
Jackson inherited the title of the High Prince of the Agni people of Côte d'Ivoire from Michael Jackson. In August 2009, he was crowned Prince Côte Nana by Amon N'Douffou V, King of Krindjabo, who rules more than a million Agni tribespeople.
Jackson married Jacqueline Lavinia Brown (born 1944) on December 31, 1962, and together they have five children: Santita (1963), Jesse Jr. (1965), Jonathan Luther (1966), Yusef DuBois (1970), and Jacqueline Lavinia (1975).
Jackson's younger brother, Charles "Chuck" Jackson, was a singer with the vocal group The Independents and as a solo artist who issued two albums in the late 1970s. Along with his songwriting partner and fellow producer, Marvin Yancy, he was largely responsible for launching the career of Natalie Cole.
On Memorial Day, May 25, 1987, Jesse was made a Master Mason on Sight by Grand Master Senter of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Illinois; thereby making him a Prince Hall Freemason.
In 2001, it was revealed Jackson had an affair with a staffer, Karin Stanford, that resulted in the birth of a daughter Ashley in May 1999. According to CNN, in August 1999, the Rainbow Push Coalition had paid Stanford $15,000 in moving expenses and $21,000 in payment for contracting work. A promised advance of an additional $40,000 against future contracting work was rescinded once the affair became public. This incident prompted Jackson to withdraw from activism for a short time. Jackson was paying $4,000 a month in child support as of 2001.
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|Party political offices|
|New seat||Democratic nominee for U.S. Shadow Senator from the District of Columbia
|New seat||U.S. Shadow Senator (Seat 2) from the District of Columbia
Served alongside: Florence Pendleton
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