Who is Jesse Jackson and What role did Jesse Jackson play as an American civil rights activist?

Jesse Jackson (1941- ) is one of the most active civil rights leaders and a spokesman for all minorities in the United States.

Jackson was ordained a Baptist minister in 1968, when he had already become actively involved with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

In 1971, he left the SCLC to start his own organization, People United to Save Humanity (PUSH). Because of his persistence in combatting racism, his knowledge of certain issues, and his charismatic personality, Jackson became a highly visible leader of civil rights. His PUSH-EXCEL program, an offspring of PUSH, encouraged African American youth to excel academically.

In the 1980s he ran for president and received many votes for the Democratic nomination, although he failed to win the spot. He ran in 1984 and 1988 and made an impressive showing. His campaign was important because it demonstrated the important role that blacks played in national politics.

He remains engaged in political life, frequently acting as peacemaker in negotiations when racial troubles of any kind occur. His Rainbow Coalition, founded in 1984, promotes civil rights for all minorities. He also acts as an unofficial and at times controversial diplomat between the United States and other countries, traveling all over and meeting with foreign leaders.

President Bill Clinton appointed him secretary of veteran affairs in 1993, the year he also received the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize.