Jesse Jackson was born on October 8, 1941, in Greenville, South Carolina. In 1965, Jackson participated in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, movement in Selma, Alabama. When Jackson returned from Selma, he threw himself into King's effort to establish a beachhead of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Chicago.
In 1966, King selected Jackson to be head of the SCLC's Operation Breadbasket in Chicago and promoted him to be the national director in 1967. Following the example of Reverend Leon Sullivan of Philadelphia, a key goal of the new group was to foster "selective buying" (boycotts) as a means to pressure white businesses to hire blacks and purchase goods and services from black contractors. One of Sullivan's precursors was Dr. T. R. M. Howard, a wealthy South Side doctor and entrepreneur and key financial contributor to Operation Breadbasket.
Jackson was present with King in Memphis when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
In 1984, Jackson organized the Rainbow Coalition. It merged with PUSH in 1996. During the 1980s, he achieved wide fame as an African-American leader and as a politician, as well as becoming a well-known spokesman for civil rights issues. In 1984, Jackson became the second African American (after Shirley Chisholm) to mount a nationwide campaign for President of the United States. In the end, however, he lost the nomination, coming a close second to Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, the eventual nominee.
While Jesse Jackson was initially critical of the "third way" or more moderate policies of Bill Clinton, he became a key ally in gaining African American support for Clinton and eventually become a close advisor and friend of the Clinton family. Clinton awarded Jesse Jackson the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest honor bestowed on civilians.
A More Perfect Union
by Jesse Jackson.