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Jackson, Jessie Louis, Sr. (1941- )

Long before he became a minister, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation Breadbasket, Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), and founder of the Rainbow Coalition, Jesse Louis Jackson impressed his family and close friends as a person destined for greatness.  Born Jesse Burns in Greenville, South Carolina on October 8, 1941 to Helen Burns, a 17 year old unwed high school student and Noah Robinson, her older married neighbor, young Jesse took the surname Jackson from his adopted father, Charles Jackson, who later married Burns.  Insecure owing to the circumstances of his birth, Jackson decided to make himself a father figure and leader of his people.  

Tall and imposing at 6’ 4,” Jackson became a star high school quarterback and earned a football scholarship at the University of Illinois in 1959.  After one year at Illinois he transferred to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A & T) University in Greensboro, North Carolina partly because he was not allowed to play quarterback.  At A & T, Jackson used his oratorical skills and charismatic personality to become the student body president.  Encouraged to test his leadership skills, Jackson led his first march to downtown Greensboro in 1962.  Under the guidance of A & T President, Dr. Samuel Proctor, Jackson enrolled at the Chicago Theological Seminary where he planned to train for the ministry.  Jackson was ordained a Baptist minister in 1968 although he left the Seminary two years earlier to work full time in the Civil Rights Movement.

Jackson’s introduction to the Movement came in 1965 when he traveled to Selma, Alabama to join in the campaign for voting rights.  While there Jackson met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man who would launch his career as a national civil rights leader.  Through King’s influence, Jackson quickly established himself prominently within King’s organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  When SCLC launched its first northern campaign in Chicago in 1966, Jackson was put in

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