- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame
Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
Jesse Louis Jackson Sr.
1941 - present

In his quest for social, racial and economic justice, Rev. Jesse Jackson has been civil rights activist, presidential candidate, and international hostage negotiator. While a student at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College in 1963, Jackson led protests to desegregate theaters and restaurants in Greensboro. He went to Selma, Alabama after "Bloody Sunday" in 1965, met Martin Luther King, Jr. and joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). By 1966 Jackson had become head of the Chicago Chapter of SCLC's Operation Breadbasket. He also helped establish the Chicago Freedom Movement to work for open housing and school desegregation. A year later he was appointed the national director of Operation Breadbasket. In 1971 he left SCLC to establish Operation PUSH - People United to Save Humanity. Through that organization he has orchestrated economic boycotts of major corporations that discriminate against blacks. His National Rainbow Coalition established in the mid-1980s brought together diverse people to advocate for human rights. Jackson eventually merged that organization with PUSH. In 1984 Jackson made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. He ran and lost again in 1988, but at one point took the lead in popular votes and delegates. Jackson has used his gifts as a persuasive speaker to gain the freedom of Navy Pilot Robert Goodman (1984), hundreds held in Kuwait by Saddam Hussein (1991) and three U.S. prisoners of war held by Yugoslav President Slobadan Milosevic (1999). For these and other efforts, President Bill Clinton awarded Jackson the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to civilians in the United States.

Jesse Louis Burns grew up poor in a South Carolina sharecropping family. At 15 he took the last name of his stepfather. He married Jacqueline Lavinia Brown in December 1962 and two years later graduated from predominately black North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College. Jackson studied at the Chicago Theological Seminary and was ordained as a Baptist minister in June 1968, two months after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Through his National Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Jackson currently campaigns for the reauthorization of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He has also helped the United Kingdom's "Operation Black Vote" to promote minority participation in British elections in 2005.