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Jesse Jackson is a famous Civil Rights leader, one of the greatest. He believes that African Americans should get more political power. He fought for that power by being the second black American to run for President. The first was Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm. She ran in 1972, but was not a factor in the election. Jesse Jackson was the first African-American to be a contender in a presidential election.
Fighting for Equality
Jesse Jackson was born in 1941 in Greenville, South Carolina. He graduated from Sterling High School and received a football scholarship to the University of Illinois. Shortly after he went there he transferred to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro and became active in sit-ins with other students at the college. A sit-in is when a group of black people would sit down in a white-only restaurant or business, to protest being unable to eat or shop there. It was very common in the south at that time for Blacks to be kept out of many businesses like restaurants run by Whites.
1965 was a very important year for Jesse Jackson. He met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the famous Selma March, an effort to register black voters. He was made the leader of the Chicago branch of Operation Breadbasket, which was established by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1962. Operation Breadbasket was a civil rights group that tried to get more job opportunities for Blacks. He was very successful in leading that program, boycotting businesses that discriminated against Blacks, and forcing businesses to hire black workers. He was with Dr. King in Memphis, Tennessee when Dr. King was assassinated three years later.
In 1979, Jackson, like Dr. King before him, became interested in civil rights struggles around the world. He traveled to Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria. He met Egyptian President Answar Sadat, Syrian President Hafez al Assad, and Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat. Although he didn’t accomplish much in getting Arab-Israeli peace, his personal friendship with Syrian leader Assad proved to be helpful later in the Mid-East peace process.
Running for President
Jesse Jackson first ran for The Democratic Nomination in 1984. Although he didn’t win he put up an impressive total of 450 delegates, way more than Shirley Chisholm in 1972. At The Democratic National Convention, Jackson said, "This is not a perfect party. We are not perfect people. Yet we are called to a perfect mission: our mission to feed the hungry; to clothe the naked; to house the homeless; to teach the illiterate; to provide jobs for the jobless; and to choose the human race over the nuclear race." Jesse Jackson believes the government should spend more money on people than on weapons for war.
Jackson also ran for President in 1988. In this election he ran even stronger than before. He targeted all minority groups such as blacks, women, and Hispanics along with more white voters. This time he got 1200 delegates. Although it wasn’t enough to win, it was extremely impressive. Many people laughed at the idea of a successful black candidate. "The nation isn’t ready!" they said. Jackson showed them up! He responded, "Excellence is doing your best against the odds, as I run for President I run against the odds… yet I defy the odds." Even though he couldn’t win the race, it was almost like Jackson ran just to prove to people that a black person could still do well in a Presidential election.
Jesse Jackson once said, "America is like a quilt; many patches many pieces; many colors; many sizes, all woven together by a common thread… all of us count and fit somewhere." Jackson strongly believes that all of the different people in this country should get along because we are all Americans and are in this country to be free, not to be punished for having different colored skin.
Jesse Jackson is a great man. He knows how to work under pressure. When other people show hatred he simply says, "I am somebody!" Jesse Jackson will not let prejudice or racism make him less than he is!
Jesse Jackson Timeline
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