Once an aide to Martin Luther King, Jr.
, Jesse Jackson has been a political activist and public figure since the civil rights days of the 1960s. Jackson went to the University of Illinois on a football scholarship, but changed schools in 1960 to attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro. He graduated in 1964 and went to Chicago to study for a Master of Divinity degree, but left school to work in the emerging civil rights movement (he was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1968, and was awarded his degree in 2000). Jackson became a close colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was present the day Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. Disagreeing factions led to a splintering of the movement's leaders, and Jackson went off on his own in the 1970s. Jackson, is the founder of the non-profit organization PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), and has consistently used consumer boycotts and political pressure to guarantee equal rights for African Americans. In the 1980s he was a regular presence at rallies and protests, especially on topics of employment, business opportunities and social equality. He has several times been an unofficial U.S. envoy in diplomatic missions; in 1999 he helped secure the release of three American military prisoners from Yugoslavia. He has also served as a "shadow" senator for Washington, D.C., advocating for voters in that district. Jackson made unsuccessful runs for the Democratic nomination for U.S. president in 1984 and 1988, losing to Walter Mondale
in 1984 and to Michael Dukakis
in 1988 (both elections were ultimately won by Republican candidates: Ronald Reagan
and George Bush Sr.)
. He became a familiar face on television, often as a guest on talk shows and as host of his own show on CNN, Both Sides with Jesse Jackson