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Al Sharpton Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

Here’s a look at the life of Rev. Al Sharpton, political activist and Baptist minister.


Birth date: October 3, 1954

Birth place: Brooklyn, New York

Birth name: Alfred Charles Sharpton Jr.

Father: Alfred Sharpton Sr., carpenter/contractor

Mother: Ada Essie (Richards) Sharpton

Marriages: Kathy Jordan Sharpton (1980-2021, divorced); Marsha Tinsley (divorced)

Children: with Kathy Jordan Sharpton: Ashley and Dominique

Education: Attended Brooklyn College

Religion: Baptist

Other Facts

Toured with singer James Brown in the 1970s.

Kathy Jordan, Sharpton’s second wife, was a backup singer for Brown.


1964 – Is ordained as a Pentecostal minister.

1969 – Is named youth director for Operation Breadbasket, a campaign to improve economic conditions in black neighborhoods, by Jesse Jackson.

1970s Founds National Youth Movement to raise money for poor youth and fight drugs (later renamed United African Movement).

1972Is named youth director of Shirley Chisholm’s presidential campaign.

1987 – Becomes the spokesman for the family of Tawana Brawley, a black teenager who claimed she was abducted and raped by a group of white men. When the case is later brought before a grand jury, it is determined that Brawley falsified the account. In 1998, Steven Pagones, accused of raping Brawley, files a civil suit against Sharpton and others involved in the incident. A jury orders Sharpton to pay $65,000 for defamation.

January 1988 – A Newsday article reveals that Sharpton was an FBI informant on organized crime, public figures and black civic leaders.

1989 – Is charged with 67 counts of tax evasion, larceny and fraud. A jury later acquits Sharpton of all charges.

1990 – Supports the five black defendants in the Central Park jogger case where a white female jogger was raped and beaten. In December 2002 all convictions are overturned when another man confesses to the crime and DNA evidence supports his confession.

1991 – Founds the National Action Network, an organization promoting “a modern civil rights agenda.

January 12, 1991 – Is stabbed in the chest while leading a march against the verdict in the case of the 1989 murder of Yusuf Hawkins. The wound is not considered life-threatening. Later, Michael Riccardi is convicted of the stabbing and Sharpton speaks at Riccardi’s sentencing hearing, asking for leniency.

August 26, 1991 – Speaks at the funeral of Gavin Cato, a 7-year-old black child who was struck and killed by a Jewish driver on August 19. Cato’s death sparked three days of riots in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, in which a Jewish student from Australia was stabbed to death.

1992 – Places third out of four Democratic candidates in New York’s primary for the US Senate.

1993 – Sharpton pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to file state income tax for 1986.

1994 – Runs and loses in the primary for Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s US Senate seat.

February 1994 Converts from Pentecostal to Baptist and returns to preaching.

1997 Comes in second in New York’s mayoral primary with 32% of the vote.

1999 – Organizes a massive demonstration after the death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed man killed by police outside his Bronx apartment.

2001 – Is sentenced to 90 days in jail for trespassing on US Navy property during a protest of military training activities on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

April 22, 2003Formally announces his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president.

December 6, 2003 – Hosts NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

March 15, 2004 – Drops out of the 2004 presidential race and endorses John Kerry.

May 13, 2004 – Is ordered by the Federal Election Commission to repay $100,000 in public matching funds he received for his 2004 presidential bid.

July 28, 2004Addresses the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

November 2, 2005Speaks at the funeral of Rosa Parks.

September 20, 2007 – Leads several thousand people in a protest through Jena, Louisiana, in support of the “Jena Six,” a group of black teens charged with beating a white classmate.

October 8, 2008 – Is convicted of two counts of disorderly conduct stemming from an arrest at a May 2008 rally.

February 22, 2009 – Asks the city government to put pressure on the New York Post for a President Barack Obama cartoon he says was racist. Meets with the FCC to oppose waivers granted to New York Post owner Rupert Murdoch.

April 23, 2009Is fined $285,000 by the FEC, alleging he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in private funds. It is later found that his National Action Network gave hundreds of thousands of dollars towards his campaign that should have been covered by his election committee.

May 16, 2009 – On the 55th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, Sharpton and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announce they will be working together to explore how the educational gap between races and classes can be fixed.

June 20, 2009 – Meets with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to discuss allegations of racial profiling.

September 3, 2009 – Delivers eulogy at Michael Jackson’s funeral.

August 29, 2011 – Sharpton’s new show on MSNBC, “PoliticsNation,” premieres.

April 8, 2014 – Sharpton denies he did anything wrong when he disclosed information about the mafia to the FBI starting in the 1980s.

August 25, 2014 – Sharpton speaks at the funeral of Ferguson, Missouri, teenager Michael Brown. During his eulogy, Sharpton criticizes police and asks that protestors not commit violence in Brown’s name.

November 18, 2014 – The New York Times reports that Sharpton and his for-profit companies owe more than $4.5 million in unpaid taxes. At a press conference, Sharpton disputes the report, stating that $4.5 million was the original figure he was ordered to pay back in 2008, but that he has been making regular payments since then and the amount is now less.

August 31, 2018 – Speaks at the funeral of Aretha Franklin in Detroit.

June 4, 2020 – As protests over the death of George Floyd sweep the nation, Sharpton announces that he’s organizing a March on Washington to mark the 57th anniversary of the historic demonstration for civil rights. The event takes place on August 28.

April 20, 2021 Following the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin case, Sharpton leads a prayer alongside Floyd’s family and their attorneys, thanking God as well as prosecutors and the jury for delivering justice “in the midnight hours.”

June 19, 2022 – “Loudmouth,” a documentary about Sharpton, premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival.

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