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THE REVEREND JESSE JACKSON

Rev. Jesse Jackson Rev. Jesse Jackson

Rev. Jesse Jackson is yet another powerhouse name in America's civil rights movement. Eventhough he has been a civil rights activist ever since his college days, it was not until he the 1960's that he shot to national prominence as one of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr's assistants at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference(SCLC). In fact he was among Rev. King's entourage at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennesse on April 5th 1968, the day of his assassination. However events at the Motel after Rev. King's assassination have been the subject of much controversy with many black activists, including the Rev. Al Sharpton accusing Rev. Jackson of twisting facts and trying to capitalize on the death of a fellow civil rights activist. Shortly after Rev. King's death, Rev. Jackson appeared on the popular NBC Today Show and claimed that Rev. King had died in his arms. His account of events was later discounted by other activists who had witnessed Rev. King's murder. Reports have it that to this day, Rev. King's widow, Coretta Scott King remains estranged with Rev. Jackson over this incident.

This however has not been the only controversy surrounding Rev. Jesse Jackson. He has been accused, mostly by conservatives, of financial improprieties, including but not limited to the numerous lawsuits he has settled financially with major corporations regarding their minority hiring practices. Most major corporations Rev. Jackson has taken to court have been quick to settle fearing racism labels and this has prompted conservatives to accuse Rev. Jackson of "blackmailing" these corporations. However Rev. Jackson's recent controversy involving infidelity has been his most damning to date. He has since admitted to having an extra-marital affair with one of his aides, Karin Stanford, that resulted in a baby. This for a while seemed to signal the end of Rev. Jackson's political career but it appears that he has since bounced back from it. Eventhough Rev. Jackson's detractors have tried very hard to use the controversies surrounding him to put a damper on his civil rights record, the fact of the matter remains that he is still one of the most accomplished civil rights activists in America, with a distinguished record that nobody can ever take away from him.

Jesse Louis Jackson was born on October 8th 1941 in the US city of Greenville, South Carolina. He joined the civil rights movement in 1965 as a member of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr's Southern Christian Leadership Conference(SCLC). Among his first major projects included Operation Breadbasket which was an attempt to get companies to hire more blacks and also sell more black products. In 1971 he founded the People United to Save Humanity(PUSH) in Chicago. PUSH's main agenda was economic empowerment for minorities through expanding educational and employment opportunities. In 1984, he founded the National Rainbow Coalition which focussed mainly on political empowerment for minorities in the hope of bringing more of them into the political process and thus making them partners in shaping public policy. In 1996, Rainbow Coalition and PUSH emerged to form the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Rev. Jackson has also taken his activism beyond America's borders to places like the Soviet Union where he attempted to diffuse their tensions with the US during the cold-war era. He has also been an active player in the Middle-East stand-off especially during US President Clinton's administration. In Africa, he was in the forefront during the struggle to dismantle apartheid in South Africa and release Nelson Mandela from prison. He has also participated in the democratization process in various African countries. Rev. Jackson is also known worldwide for his to resolve hostage crisis, the most memorable being the his role in the 1984 release of captured Navy Lieutenant Robert Goodman from Syria. He was also the first American to bring hostages out of Kuwait and Iraq in 1990. Eventhough he made two unsuccessful bids at the US Presidency in 1984 and 1988, his is still regarded as the best showing by an African-American Presidential contender. Colin Powell, who many consider an African-American that can actually win the US Presidency has never run for the office.

Rev. Jackson's work as a civil rights activist have not gone unnoticed and he has been the recipient of numerous awards and honours. In 1991 the US Post Office put his picture on a pictoral Postal cancellation making him only the second person to receive such an honor. For ten years running, he was in the Gallup list of Ten Most Respected Americans. He also received the prestigious NAACP Springham Award that honours grassroots and comminity activities. He has also received upwards of 40 Honorary Degrees and is known to lecture frequently at Prestigious institutions like Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Stanford among others.

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