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Jesse Jackson Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

Here’s a look at the life of civil rights activist and clergyman Jesse Jackson.


Birth date: October 8, 1941

Birth place: Greenville, South Carolina

Birth name: Jesse Louis Burns

Father: Noah Robinson, cotton grader

Mother: Helen (Burns) Jackson, hairdresser

Marriage: Jacqueline Lavinia (Brown) Jackson (December 31, 1962-present)

Children: with Karin Stanford: Ashley; with Jacqueline Lavinia (Brown) Jackson: Jacqueline, Yusef, Jonathan, Jesse Jr. and Santita

Education: North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, Greensboro, 1964, B.A. in Sociology; Chicago Theological Seminary, 2000, M.Div.

Religion: Baptist

Other Facts

Ran for US president twice but has never held elected office.

After high school graduation, Jackson received an offer from the Chicago White Sox and a football scholarship from the University of Illinois. He chose the football scholarship but later transferred to North Carolina A&T State University.

Jackson’s son Jesse Jr. is a former US congressman who represented Illinois’ 2nd District.


1943 – Jackson’s mother marries Charles Henry Jackson. He formally adopts Jesse in 1957.

July 17, 1960 – Jackson begins his civil rights activism when he and seven others enter the “whites only” public library in Greenville County, South Carolina. They are subsequently arrested and jailed. A lawyer files suit on their behalf and two months later the library system abandons formal segregation of its downtown library.

1965 – Participates in civil rights demonstrations in Selma, Alabama, with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

1966 – Is chosen by King to head the Chicago branch of Operation Breadbasket, an organization that strives to improve the economic condition of black communities across the nation. A year later he is appointed national director.

1968Is ordained a Baptist minister.

December 1971 – Resigns from the SCLC and forms Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) in Chicago.

1971-1986 – Executive director of operation for PUSH.

November 3, 1983 Formally announces his candidacy for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination.

1984 – Secures the release of 48 Cuban and Cuban-American prisoners held in Cuba and of Navy Lieutenant Robert Goodman, an African-American pilot held hostage in Syria.

April 17, 1986 – Founds the National Rainbow Coalition, a national social justice organization in Washington, DC.

October 10, 1987 Formally announces his candidacy for the 1988 Presidential election.

1992-2000Hosts “Both Sides with Jesse Jackson” on CNN.

September 1996 – Operation PUSH and the Rainbow Coalition merge to form Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

May 1, 1999 – Successfully negotiates with Slobodan Milosevic for the release of three US soldiers who had been held in Yugoslavia for more than a month.

August 9, 2000 – Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton.

January 18, 2001 – Publicly acknowledges he fathered a daughter out of wedlock in 1999 with Karin Stanford, the former head of Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s Washington bureau.

July 9, 2008 – Apologizes for disparaging comments he made on July 6 about presidential candidate Barack Obama while on a break during an interview with Fox News. Jackson says he was unaware his microphone was still on.

September 2012 – Two Americans serving prison sentences for treason in Gambia are allowed to return to the United States after Jackson makes a face-to-face appeal to President Yahya Jammeh for their release.

August 14, 2013 – Jackson’s son Jesse Jr. is sentenced to 30 months in prison for misusing roughly $750,000 in campaign funds over several years.

October 2013 – Following public pleas from Jackson, Colombia’s FARC guerrillas release Kevin Scott Sutay, who had been captured by FARC guerrillas on June 20, while he was backpacking through Colombia.

August 19, 2014 – Writes an op-ed for USA Today, “There’s a ‘Ferguson’ Near You,” commenting on the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by local police. Brown’s death sparked protests and a national debate surrounding controversial police encounters.

November 17, 2017 – Announces he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

July 12, 2019 – Pens a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to grant a full pardon of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

February 18, 2020 – Trump commutes Blagojevich’s sentence.

March 8, 2020 – Endorses Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.

February 1, 2021 The Rainbow PUSH Coalition releases a statement saying Jackson is recovering from surgery after being hospitalized for abdominal discomfort.

August 21, 2021 – The Rainbow PUSH Coalition releases a statement saying Jackson and his wife have both been hospitalized after testing positive for Covid-19.

September 22, 2021 Jackson is discharged from a rehabilitation facility. He was being treated at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago after he was hospitalized in August.

November 2, 2021 – Jackson is discharged from the hospital after falling and hitting his head on November 1 while attending a meeting at Howard University in Washington, DC. Though test results came back normal, Jackson was kept overnight for observation.

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