Rev. Jesse Jackson, 2021 Hall of Fame Inductee

Jesse Jackson

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Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson is an American civil rights leader, Baptist minister and political activist. His work for the Democratic Party made him one of the first African Americans to garner nationwide attention to his involvement in campaigns, nominations, and organizations. 

Born in 1941, in Greenville, South Carolina, Jackson attended Sterling High School in Greenville that was racially segregated. There he was elected class president, excelled in sports such as football, baseball and football, and finished 10th in his class. In 1960, he enrolled in the University of Chicago on a football scholarship. Jackson then transferred to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and received his Bachelor of Science in Sociology in 1964.  

Jackson became active in local civil rights protests against segregated libraries, theaters, and restaurants. In 1965, he went to Selma, Alabama, to march with Martin Luther King Jr., and became a worker in King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He helped found the Chicago branch of Operation Breadbasket and served as the organization’s national director from 1967 to 1971.  

He is the founder of Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) that aimed to help create more employment opportunities for African Americans and support for black businesses. This later was combined with Jackson’s National Rainbow Coalition in 1996, that sought to create equal rights for African Americans, women, and homosexuals.  

In 1983, Jackson ran for president, finishing third place in the primaries. Jackson played a key role in the election of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African American Mayor. In 1991, Jackson served as a shadow U.S. senator for the district of Columbia until 1997.   

–Lana Abdallah