In a move that signals an end of an era, Reverend Jesse Jackson is preparing to step down from the helm of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a civil rights organization he founded in Chicago in 1971. This significant decision was confirmed by his son, Democratic Representative Jonathan Jackson of Illinois.
Jesse Jackson, a civil rights stalwart and two-time Democratic presidential candidate, intends to share his retirement decision with the public during the organization’s annual convention on Sunday. His son paid tribute to Jackson’s dedication to the fight for civil rights, describing it as his enduring “mark upon history.”
Jackson, who is approaching his 82nd birthday, has continued his civil rights activism despite facing a series of health challenges. His announcement in 2017 that he was battling Parkinson’s disease marked the beginning of his health struggles, followed by gallbladder surgery in 2021, treatment for COVID-19, and hospitalization for a fall that resulted in a head injury later that year.
The influence of Jackson, a protégé of the Rev. Martin Luther King, on the civil rights movement has been significant. In 1971, he founded Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), a far-reaching civil rights organization based in Chicago’s South Side. Over the years, the organization transformed into the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, focusing on advocating for the corporate hiring of more minorities and conducting voter registration drives.
Until the election of Barack Obama in 2008, Jackson held the record as the most successful black presidential candidate, securing 13 primaries and caucuses for the Democratic nomination in 1988. Despite controversies, including a comment in 1984 derogatory to the Jewish community, Jackson worked to mend relations and later endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential race.
Throughout his career, Jackson has been at the forefront of multiple civil rights issues, ranging from voting rights to education. He showed his support for the family of George Floyd and has actively encouraged the black community to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Renowned civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who regards Jackson as his mentor, expressed his profound respect for Jackson’s contributions to the struggle for social justice. In his statement, Sharpton pledged to continue learning from and emulating Jackson’s leadership.
As Reverend Jesse Jackson prepares to depart from his active role at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, his legacy as a luminary of the civil rights movement endures, inspiring future generations in their fight for justice and equality.