Al Sharpton is a religious leader and political activist. He was born on October 3, 1954, in Brooklyn, New York. His father left the family and Sharpton was raised by his mother. They had to move to the public housing projects, where his mother worked as a maid and supported the family on her meager income as well as government welfare payments. Sharpton studied at public schools in Queens and Brooklyn, and graduated from Samuel J. Tilden High School in 1972. He was a commanding figure, even as a youth and was ordained as a Pentecostal minister at the age of 10. He used to travel to other places to deliver sermons, and once teamed up with the acclaimed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.
From a very early age, Sharpton was active in religious and political causes. He joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and worked for one of their divisions called “Operation BreadBasket”. This was a program aimed at encouraging businesses to enhance diversity in the workplace. Another such cause was organizing protests against a supermarket chain called A&P. After high school, Sharpton enrolled at Brooklyn College, which he attended for two years before dropping out. He started working as the youth director for the presidential campaign of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and also served as the tour manager for famed musician James Brown.
In 1971, Al Sharpton founded an organization known as the National Youth Movement, which collected funds for the betterment of disadvantaged youth. He has worked to raise awareness and bring justice for many racially motivated hate crimes such as the Bernhard Goetz shooting incident. Goetz shot four African American men on a New York City Subway. The case was dismissed as a self-defense incident and Goetz was cleared of all charges. Another such incident was when three African American men were assaulted by a group of white men in Howard Beach. Sharpton organized rallies and protests against the incident. He then founded a group called “National Action Network” which deigned to