Raised in poverty, he attended the Chicago Theological Seminary (1963–65) and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1968. Active in the civil rights movement, he became an associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. He served as executive director (1966–71) of Operation Breadbasket, a program of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) that addressed the economic problems of blacks in northern cities. In 1971 he founded Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), an organization to combat racism. Since 1986 he has been president of the National Rainbow Coalition, an independent political organization aimed at uniting disparate groups—racial minorities, the poor, peace activists, and environmentalists. In 1984 and 1988 Jackson, an effective public speaker, campaigned vigorously for the Democratic nomination for President, the first African-American to contend seriously for that office. He has also campaigned for statehood for the District of Columbia. Jackson hosted a television program on which public issues were discussed.
See Adolph L. Reed, Jr., The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon (1986); E. O. Coulton, The Jackson Phenomenon (1989).
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