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Jesse Jackson Runs for President - History

Jesse Jackson Runs for President - History


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Jesse Jackson became the first African American to make a serious bid for the Presidency. While the bid was unsuccessful, it helped to solidify Jackson's political power.

Jesse Jackson

Jesse Louis Jackson (né Burns born October 8, 1941) is an American political activist, Baptist minister, and politician. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and served as a shadow U.S. Senator for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997.

He is the founder of the organizations that merged to form Rainbow/PUSH. Former U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. is his eldest son. Jackson hosted Both Sides with Jesse Jackson on CNN from 1992 to 2000.


Kornacki: The history of the black vote and what it means for 2020

Black politicians were winning office in larger numbers — a handful in Congress, some in big city mayoralties and more in state legislatures, particularly in the South. Many weren’t sure if the Democratic Party was the right vehicle for their ambitions, and for the black community’s broader aspirations. Julian Bond, a Georgia state senator and civil rights veteran, considered an independent presidential campaign in 1976. Two years later, Jesse Jackson, another product of the civil rights movement, addressed a meeting of the Republican National Committee and declared the black vote up for grabs — if the GOP would make the effort.

The ’76 campaign played out as debates over busing and fair housing roiled neighborhoods in the North. The rising black constituency posed a strategic dilemma for the all-white roster of Democratic candidates, which weighed outreach against fears of a backlash from blue-collar “white ethnics.” The mere act of campaigning in black areas was enough to win Jimmy Carter credit from the top-ranking black official at the Democratic National Committee, who said: “He isn’t saying much, but he’s going.”


Jesse Jackson Jr. warned us about democracy: It's hobbling, "on one broken leg, and drunk"

By David Masciotra
Published June 13, 2021 12:00PM (EDT)

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., walks down the House Steps with other members of Congress following a vote on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009. (Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images)

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"The United States is not a democracy. It is moving toward democracy," former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. explained during our recent conversation in his Chicago home. As I began to ask him to elaborate, he cut off my sentence at the knees, giving a small semantic correction — but a politically crucial one — to his already bleak assessment: "Was. The United States was moving toward democracy."

We were sitting underneath the visual aid of what is a lifelong passion for Jackson: a large chart and timeline depicting a comprehensive theory for the interpretation of American history. Beginning with the colonial and slavery days of the 17th century and moving to the present, the timeline identifies the critical stages of American development using a nifty metaphor: the "tremor phase," "the great earthquake" of the Civil War, and everything that happened subsequent to Reconstruction, including a violent mob storming the Capitol in January 2021, with many insurrectionists waving Confederate flags, as "the aftershocks."

The chart and the book that emanates from this historical theory, "A More Perfect Union: Advancing New American Rights," co-authored with longtime civil rights activist and political strategist Frank Watkins, were both vastly ahead of their time. Jackson recalls showing the work to visitors in his congressional office in the 1990s and early 2000s, and describes the solutions that his historical framework pulls into focus, with no small measure of modesty but not without justification, as "the most progressive ever proposed" within mainstream American discourse.

Locating racism as central to the historical development of the U.S., it was "critical race theory" before the term became familiar, and an early version of the "1619 Project," many years prior to the New York Times series. In fact, when "A More Perfect Union" was published in 2001, the New York Times, along with nearly every other major publication, refused to review it. Its advantage over critical race theory and the 1619 Project is that it opens an exit from the oppressive structures of American law and power. Rather than collapsing into "Afro-pessimism," it delineates a template for a radical restructuring of society.

Jesse Jackson Jr. acquired what he calls an "orientation" from coming of age as the son of one of the world's foremost civil rights leaders, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and formally studying theology and law. He was first elected to Congress, representing the South Side and southern suburbs of Chicago, in 1995, and served 17 years as a consistent advocate for voting rights, investment in public goods and services, and peace. He was also national co-chairman of the Barack Obama campaign in 2008. Following a federal investigation of his campaign finances in 2012, Jackson was forced to resign from Congress and plead guilty to one count of wire and mail fraud in connection with misuse of campaign funds. In the same period, he began receiving treatment for bipolar disorder. He ultimately served more than two years in federal prison.

Jackson rarely grants interviews these days, but is committed to carrying his intellectual and political work into the present. In 2019, he collaborated with his mother, Jacqueline Jackson, to publicize her book, "Loving You, Thinking of You, Don't Forget to Pray: Letters to My Son in Prison." They used their media appearances to discuss criminal justice reform, the moral failures of the penal system and how best to assimilate ex-convicts, especially those who are not former members of Congress, into roles of productive citizenship.

Insistent that his triumphs and failures, his imprisonment and redemption are all critical to his expansive perspective, Jackson began with his initial entrance to the Capitol when I inquired about why he saw voting rights as superior to all other issues in political struggle.

"When we got to Congress in 1995, our orientation prepared us for everything that was percolating in the body politic," Jackson said, referring to himself and Watkins. "Newt Gingrich, the Republicans and some Southern Democrats were halting all progress. We walked through the Capitol, and we saw Robert E. Lee's statue, Stonewall Jackson's statue and Gen. Joseph Wheeler from Alabama's statue. The customs of politics had come to accept that 'states' rights' was a legitimate form of organizing an agenda."

Jackson remembered, as a freshman congressman investigating why many of his colleagues felt such hostility toward the very notion of multiracial democracy, taking a tour of many Southern districts, including that of Gingrich, then speaker of the House, in Georgia. "We could see that the politics associated with the Civil War," Jackson said, "was a factor in the representatives that the people send to Washington, D.C. They merely changed the name from 'Confederate' to 'conservative.'"

One of his first efforts to confront the sacralization of states' rights was to lobby for the inclusion of a Rosa Parks statue in the Capitol building. It was not until 2013 that the effort succeeded, and the civil rights hero was able to stand alongside men who committed treason in what is purportedly a pantheon of the American democratic tradition. Jackson explained, with audible disgust in his voice, that Nancy Pelosi recently told a reporter about how he had "tried" to remove the statues of Confederates from the Capitol.

"Jesse tried?" Jackson asked in response. "Well, how long has Chuck Schumer walked past those statues? How long has Nancy Pelosi herself walked past those statues? You see, it isn't about the statues. It is about the politics that they legitimize — the politics behind them that signal it is acceptable for those figures to be there."

"It is business as usual," Jackson said, summarizing the Democratic Party's complacency on both matters of symbolism and substance, "They do not understand or appreciate the existential threat facing democracy."

To acquire a sophisticated understanding of American democracy, Jackson argues that historical knowledge is a non-negotiable necessity, particularly "the history of the American Negro." While making it clear that he has no desire to "elevate Black history above anyone else's history," he argued that the unique usefulness of Black American history is that it clears away the fog that obstructs the view of America's ongoing conflict between authentic democracy and various forms of white supremacy and rule by the rich.

"We should legitimize the perspective of women's history in the United States. We should legitimize Native American history. We should legitimize labor history, and LGBTQ and immigrants, and down the list," Jackson said. "They all offer important, even essential perspectives. We're all fighting for civil rights." His voice rises almost to a shout, slowly drawing out the words "civil rights."

"However, I will argue that it is the history of the Negro that shows the formulation of the government as other histories cannot," he continued. "It will show why states left the Union. It will show why states are added to the Union — some slave, some free. It will show how the nation itself expands. It will show movements like popular sovereignty. It will show why statues were being torn down last summer, and why a mob stormed the Capitol in January of 2021. It alone will show the history of the struggle to add the 14th Amendment — a citizenship right and a personhood right — and therefore the privileges and protections of the Constitution apply to you because you are within the borders. You have to come through the history of how the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments were added to the Constitution, and you have to go through the history of the Negro to get there, in order to understand the formulation of the United States government."

Jackson acts as docent for a history that the Democratic Party, most mainstream commentators and — as he is quick to point out — even some civil rights organizations have either failed to grasp or chosen to ignore. The history renders the following conclusion inarguable: American democracy is inherently flawed, given its systemic advantages toward the white majority and moneyed class, and "states' rights" functions as a disguise for the reactionary politics of white supremacy. Republican strategist Lee Atwater was famously brazen in his acknowledgement of the latter point, once telling an interviewer, "You start out in 1954 by saying, N***er, n***er, n***er. By 1968 you can't say n***er — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states' rights, and all that stuff."

Progress toward racial equity, labor rights and social justice continually collides with "states' rights" road blocks. Voting, Jackson argues, is the most salient example, because it is the foundation of democratic participation, but also because it determines who — and, by extension, what conception of society — gains authority over the decision-making processes that govern people's lives.

The 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court case, which removed federal oversight from voting policies in former Jim Crow states and opened a pathway for all the voter suppression laws those states have adopted in 2021, demonstrated that under the current states' rights system the universal franchise is forever in jeopardy. Beyond the Shelby case, the Voting Rights Act itself is inadequate. As a consequence of its insufficiencies, Congress has made five amendments to the act, and has had repeatedly extend its provisions. The obvious and frightening question then becomes, what will happen if or when Congress decides to weaken or even end the Voting Rights Act?

"I remember when Reagan supported an extension of the Voting Rights Act for 25 years," Jackson said, "Well, hell — he's been dead that long. So, here we are again trying to extend civil rights protections, in the form of voting, in an environment that isn't as tolerant as Reagan's was."

Karl Marx explained that capitalism carries the tools of its own demolition. Its dual reliance on extreme inequality and widespread consumption installs a crisis at its center. Similarly, American democracy will exist in permanent cycles of crisis — experiencing "aftershocks" of varying severity — as long as it allows "states' rights" to undermine the exercise of democracy. From the Electoral College to myriad forms of voter suppression, the veto power of the states, especially in the hands of oligarchs and white nationalists, endangers all efforts to improve the nation.

The only permanent solution is to demote — or finally destroy — the corrosive concept of states' rights. "I understand why people don't want to talk about the long-term solutions," Jackson said while acknowledging the "impracticality" of what he is proposing, "But the short-term solutions keep presenting themselves over and over again, and failing over and over again."

The 10th Amendment delegates authority to the states on matters that the Constitution does not explicitly address. Therefore, to nationalize a right, the Constitution cannot remain silent on the question of whether or not that right exists. "In America, a human right has to be in the Constitution. That's how and why we have a strong press, strong religious freedom and strong right of assembly," Jackson said.

If Americans genuinely want a strong franchise — a universal right to vote and equal protection of that right for all citizens — we must pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing that right. The first section of the resolution that Jackson introduced in Congress in 2003 states, "All citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, shall have the right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides. The right to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, any State, or any other public or private person or entity." The amendment would vest authority in Congress to "enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

Only a constitutional amendment could create one national standard of voting rights, under one system, impervious to interference from racist and self-serving state officials. Jackson reminded me that the TSA was created only in 2001. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, political leaders agreed that to ensure the safety of travelers and prevent similar crimes in the future, it was essential to centralize airport security procedures under a single federal agency. Voting policy and practice, Jackson argues, could operate under similar federal protocols and regulation.

"We took airport security from the states and turned it over to the TSA," Jackson said. "My amendment would take voting from the states and turn it over to a machinery that has thousands of vote counters, poll workers and technology that are incorruptible by local officials.

"We can no longer have the governor of Texas overseeing elections his way, the governor of Georgia doing it his way, the governor of Florida doing it his way," Jackson added. "That's a problem for democracy. Voting must have constitutional protection if we are going to call ourselves a democracy."

In the short term, Jackson supports the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but cautions that even if they are passed, the crisis will not be over. He offers the grim prediction that "as soon as the For the People Act or John Lewis Voting Rights Act passes, you'll see 20 state attorneys general challenge it." After those Republican objections, those laws will "run through a legal gauntlet where one of Trump's judicial appointments will hear the case." It might eventually arrive at the Supreme Court where, as Jackson puts it, "Amy Coney Barrett and the Supremes will say, 'Stop in the name of states' rights.'"

"We should support the For the People Act and the John Lewis Act, because we want our democracy to hobble into the future, even with one broken leg and drunk," Jackson said. "But we should really work to make it so that our democracy can finally stand tall."

In Congress, and in the book that he wrote with and Frank Watkins, Jackson also proposed amendments to guarantee Americans the right to health care, a clean environment, a quality education, housing and other rights enumerated in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Using the vocabulary of rights to support progressive goals of equality, justice and environmental sustainability could provide an overarching argument that can unite the multiple factions of the American left. If Republicans in the early 2000s, including then-President George W. Bush, could propose and promote a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage, Democrats should overcome their deficit of imagination at least enough to discuss big ideas that can help create a better country and a better world. Even if those ideas are unlikely to succeed in the short term, they can create a sense of mission — and any movement without long-term goals will surely fail.

In terms of the survival of American democracy, the risk of failing to act on voting rights is potentially lethal. The law currently offers no preventive measures against states' rights sabotage. In "The Sun Also Rises," Hemingway describes the stages of going bankrupt as "First, gradually. Then, suddenly." Americans have ignored the gradual for so long that we now face the terror of the sudden.

During my conversation with Jackson, I spelled out the nightmare scenario that historian Timothy Snyder, political scientist Anthony DiMaggio and others have recently described. Here's a quick summary: Republicans regain control of the House and Senate in 2022, and several pro-Trump Republicans are elected as secretaries of state in Electoral College swing states. In the 2024 election, President Biden (or another Democrat) wins several of those states by narrow margins, but Republican officials, claiming "irregularities" and fabricated "fraud," refuse to certify the results. So a candidate who lost both the popular and electoral votes becomes president, and the United States is no longer a democracy.

When I finished outlining the hypothetical scenario, I asked Jackson, "What, right now, could stop that from happening?"


Jesse Jackson Jr. warned us about democracy

"The United States is not a democracy. It is moving toward democracy," former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. explained during our recent conversation in his Chicago home. As I began to ask him to elaborate, he cut off my sentence at the knees, giving a small semantic correction — but a politically crucial one — to his already bleak assessment: "Was. The United States was moving toward democracy."

We were sitting underneath the visual aid of what is a lifelong passion for Jackson: a large chart and timeline depicting a comprehensive theory for the interpretation of American history. Beginning with the colonial and slavery days of the 17th century and moving to the present, the timeline identifies the critical stages of American development using a nifty metaphor: the "tremor phase," "the great earthquake" of the Civil War, and everything that happened subsequent to Reconstruction, including a violent mob storming the Capitol in January 2021, with many insurrectionists waving Confederate flags, as "the aftershocks."

The chart and the book that emanates from this historical theory, "A More Perfect Union: Advancing New American Rights," co-authored with longtime civil rights activist and political strategist Frank Watkins, were both vastly ahead of their time. Jackson recalls showing the work to visitors in his congressional office in the 1990s and early 2000s, and describes the solutions that his historical framework pulls into focus, with no small measure of modesty but not without justification, as "the most progressive ever proposed" within mainstream American discourse.

Locating racism as central to the historical development of the U.S., it was "critical race theory" before the term became familiar, and an early version of the "1619 Project," many years prior to the New York Times series. In fact, when "A More Perfect Union" was published in 2001, the New York Times, along with nearly every other major publication, refused to review it. Its advantage over critical race theory and the 1619 Project is that it opens an exit from the oppressive structures of American law and power. Rather than collapsing into "Afro-pessimism," it delineates a template for a radical restructuring of society.

Jesse Jackson Jr. acquired what he calls an "orientation" from coming of age as the son of one of the world's foremost civil rights leaders, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and formally studying theology and law. He was first elected to Congress, representing the South Side and southern suburbs of Chicago, in 1995, and served 17 years as a consistent advocate for voting rights, investment in public goods and services, and peace. He was also national co-chairman of the Barack Obama campaign in 2008. Following a federal investigation of his campaign finances in 2012, Jackson was forced to resign from Congress and plead guilty to one count of wire and mail fraud in connection with misuse of campaign funds. In the same period, he began receiving treatment for bipolar disorder. He ultimately served more than two years in federal prison.

Jackson rarely grants interviews these days, but is committed to carrying his intellectual and political work into the present. In 2019, he collaborated with his mother, Jacqueline Jackson, to publicize her book, "Loving You, Thinking of You, Don't Forget to Pray: Letters to My Son in Prison." They used their media appearances to discuss criminal justice reform, the moral failures of the penal system and how best to assimilate ex-convicts, especially those who are not former members of Congress, into roles of productive citizenship.

Insistent that his triumphs and failures, his imprisonment and redemption are all critical to his expansive perspective, Jackson began with his initial entrance to the Capitol when I inquired about why he saw voting rights as superior to all other issues in political struggle.

"When we got to Congress in 1995, our orientation prepared us for everything that was percolating in the body politic," Jackson said, referring to himself and Watkins. "Newt Gingrich, the Republicans and some Southern Democrats were halting all progress. We walked through the Capitol, and we saw Robert E. Lee's statue, Stonewall Jackson's statue and Gen. Joseph Wheeler from Alabama's statue. The customs of politics had come to accept that 'states' rights' was a legitimate form of organizing an agenda."

Jackson remembered, as a freshman congressman investigating why many of his colleagues felt such hostility toward the very notion of multiracial democracy, taking a tour of many Southern districts, including that of Gingrich, then speaker of the House, in Georgia. "We could see that the politics associated with the Civil War," Jackson said, "was a factor in the representatives that the people send to Washington, D.C. They merely changed the name from 'Confederate' to 'conservative.'"

One of his first efforts to confront the sacralization of states' rights was to lobby for the inclusion of a Rosa Parks statue in the Capitol building. It was not until 2013 that the effort succeeded, and the civil rights hero was able to stand alongside men who committed treason in what is purportedly a pantheon of the American democratic tradition. Jackson explained, with audible disgust in his voice, that Nancy Pelosi recently told a reporter about how he had "tried" to remove the statues of Confederates from the Capitol.

"Jesse tried?" Jackson asked in response. "Well, how long has Chuck Schumer walked past those statues? How long has Nancy Pelosi herself walked past those statues? You see, it isn't about the statues. It is about the politics that they legitimize — the politics behind them that signal it is acceptable for those figures to be there."

"It is business as usual," Jackson said, summarizing the Democratic Party's complacency on both matters of symbolism and substance, "They do not understand or appreciate the existential threat facing democracy."

To acquire a sophisticated understanding of American democracy, Jackson argues that historical knowledge is a non-negotiable necessity, particularly "the history of the American Negro." While making it clear that he has no desire to "elevate Black history above anyone else's history," he argued that the unique usefulness of Black American history is that it clears away the fog that obstructs the view of America's ongoing conflict between authentic democracy and various forms of white supremacy and rule by the rich.

"We should legitimize the perspective of women's history in the United States. We should legitimize Native American history. We should legitimize labor history, and LGBTQ and immigrants, and down the list," Jackson said. "They all offer important, even essential perspectives. We're all fighting for civil rights." His voice rises almost to a shout, slowly drawing out the words "civil rights."

"However, I will argue that it is the history of the Negro that shows the formulation of the government as other histories cannot," he continued. "It will show why states left the Union. It will show why states are added to the Union — some slave, some free. It will show how the nation itself expands. It will show movements like popular sovereignty. It will show why statues were being torn down last summer, and why a mob stormed the Capitol in January of 2021. It alone will show the history of the struggle to add the 14th Amendment — a citizenship right and a personhood right — and therefore the privileges and protections of the Constitution apply to you because you are within the borders. You have to come through the history of how the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments were added to the Constitution, and you have to go through the history of the Negro to get there, in order to understand the formulation of the United States government."

Jackson acts as docent for a history that the Democratic Party, most mainstream commentators and — as he is quick to point out — even some civil rights organizations have either failed to grasp or chosen to ignore. The history renders the following conclusion inarguable: American democracy is inherently flawed, given its systemic advantages toward the white majority and moneyed class, and "states' rights" functions as a disguise for the reactionary politics of white supremacy. Republican strategist Lee Atwater was famously brazen in his acknowledgement of the latter point, once telling an interviewer, "You start out in 1954 by saying, N***er, n***er, n***er. By 1968 you can't say n***er — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states' rights, and all that stuff."

Progress toward racial equity, labor rights and social justice continually collides with "states' rights" road blocks. Voting, Jackson argues, is the most salient example, because it is the foundation of democratic participation, but also because it determines who — and, by extension, what conception of society — gains authority over the decision-making processes that govern people's lives.

The 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court case, which removed federal oversight from voting policies in former Jim Crow states and opened a pathway for all the voter suppression laws those states have adopted in 2021, demonstrated that under the current states' rights system the universal franchise is forever in jeopardy. Beyond the Shelby case, the Voting Rights Act itself is inadequate. As a consequence of its insufficiencies, Congress has made five amendments to the act, and has had repeatedly extend its provisions. The obvious and frightening question then becomes, what will happen if or when Congress decides to weaken or even end the Voting Rights Act?

"I remember when Reagan supported an extension of the Voting Rights Act for 25 years," Jackson said, "Well, hell — he's been dead that long. So, here we are again trying to extend civil rights protections, in the form of voting, in an environment that isn't as tolerant as Reagan's was."

Karl Marx explained that capitalism carries the tools of its own demolition. Its dual reliance on extreme inequality and widespread consumption installs a crisis at its center. Similarly, American democracy will exist in permanent cycles of crisis — experiencing "aftershocks" of varying severity — as long as it allows "states' rights" to undermine the exercise of democracy. From the Electoral College to myriad forms of voter suppression, the veto power of the states, especially in the hands of oligarchs and white nationalists, endangers all efforts to improve the nation.

The only permanent solution is to demote — or finally destroy — the corrosive concept of states' rights. "I understand why people don't want to talk about the long-term solutions," Jackson said while acknowledging the "impracticality" of what he is proposing, "But the short-term solutions keep presenting themselves over and over again, and failing over and over again."

The 10th Amendment delegates authority to the states on matters that the Constitution does not explicitly address. Therefore, to nationalize a right, the Constitution cannot remain silent on the question of whether or not that right exists. "In America, a human right has to be in the Constitution. That's how and why we have a strong press, strong religious freedom and strong right of assembly," Jackson said.

If Americans genuinely want a strong franchise — a universal right to vote and equal protection of that right for all citizens — we must pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing that right. The first section of the resolution that Jackson introduced in Congress in 2003 states, "All citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, shall have the right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides. The right to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, any State, or any other public or private person or entity." The amendment would vest authority in Congress to "enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

Only a constitutional amendment could create one national standard of voting rights, under one system, impervious to interference from racist and self-serving state officials. Jackson reminded me that the TSA was created only in 2001. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, political leaders agreed that to ensure the safety of travelers and prevent similar crimes in the future, it was essential to centralize airport security procedures under a single federal agency. Voting policy and practice, Jackson argues, could operate under similar federal protocols and regulation.

"We took airport security from the states and turned it over to the TSA," Jackson said. "My amendment would take voting from the states and turn it over to a machinery that has thousands of vote counters, poll workers and technology that are incorruptible by local officials.

"We can no longer have the governor of Texas overseeing elections his way, the governor of Georgia doing it his way, the governor of Florida doing it his way," Jackson added. "That's a problem for democracy. Voting must have constitutional protection if we are going to call ourselves a democracy."

In the short term, Jackson supports the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but cautions that even if they are passed, the crisis will not be over. He offers the grim prediction that "as soon as the For the People Act or John Lewis Voting Rights Act passes, you'll see 20 state attorneys general challenge it." After those Republican objections, those laws will "run through a legal gauntlet where one of Trump's judicial appointments will hear the case." It might eventually arrive at the Supreme Court where, as Jackson puts it, "Amy Coney Barrett and the Supremes will say, 'Stop in the name of states' rights.'"

"We should support the For the People Act and the John Lewis Act, because we want our democracy to hobble into the future, even with one broken leg and drunk," Jackson said. "But we should really work to make it so that our democracy can finally stand tall."

In Congress, and in the book that he wrote with and Frank Watkins, Jackson also proposed amendments to guarantee Americans the right to health care, a clean environment, a quality education, housing and other rights enumerated in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Using the vocabulary of rights to support progressive goals of equality, justice and environmental sustainability could provide an overarching argument that can unite the multiple factions of the American left. If Republicans in the early 2000s, including then-President George W. Bush, could propose and promote a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage, Democrats should overcome their deficit of imagination at least enough to discuss big ideas that can help create a better country and a better world. Even if those ideas are unlikely to succeed in the short term, they can create a sense of mission — and any movement without long-term goals will surely fail.

In terms of the survival of American democracy, the risk of failing to act on voting rights is potentially lethal. The law currently offers no preventive measures against states' rights sabotage. In "The Sun Also Rises," Hemingway describes the stages of going bankrupt as "First, gradually. Then, suddenly." Americans have ignored the gradual for so long that we now face the terror of the sudden.

During my conversation with Jackson, I spelled out the nightmare scenario that historian Timothy Snyder, political scientist Anthony DiMaggio and others have recently described. Here's a quick summary: Republicans regain control of the House and Senate in 2022, and several pro-Trump Republicans are elected as secretaries of state in Electoral College swing states. In the 2024 election, President Biden (or another Democrat) wins several of those states by narrow margins, but Republican officials, claiming "irregularities" and fabricated "fraud," refuse to certify the results. So a candidate who lost both the popular and electoral votes becomes president, and the United States is no longer a democracy.

When I finished outlining the hypothetical scenario, I asked Jackson, "What, right now, could stop that from happening?"


Later Years: Obama, Secret Love Child & Presidential Medal of Freedom

While Jackson declined to run for the U.S. presidency again, he continued to be a force on the political stage, pushing for African American rights and serving as a featured speaker at Democratic conventions.

In 1990 he won his first election, when he captured one of two special unpaid "statehood senator" posts created by the Washington City Council in order to lobby the U.S. Congress for statehood for the District of Columbia.

He also occasionally surfaced in other controversies. In 2001 it was revealed he had fathered a child out of wedlock. Seven years later, during then Senator Barack Obama&aposs campaign for the U.S. presidency, a firestorm erupted after he accused Obama of "talking down to Black people." He later apologized for the remarks.

Still, there was no denying Jackson&aposs impact on American politics and civil rights. In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That same year he received a Master of Divinity degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary.

A noted author, his books include Straight from the Heart (1987) and Legal Lynching: Racism, Injustice, and the Death Penalty (1995).


(1988) Rev. Jesse Jackson, “Keep Hope Alive”

In 1988, Rev. Jesse Jackson made a second unsuccessful run for the Democratic Nomination for President, losing out to Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Jackson, however, gave another major address at the Democratic National Convention which met in Atlanta, Georgia. The address, delivered on July 19 at the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia, appears below.

Tonight, we pause and give praise and honor to God for being good enough to allow us to be at this place at this time. When I look out at this convention, I see the face of America: Red, Yellow, Brown, Black and White. We are all precious in God’s sight — the real rainbow coalition.
All of us — all of us who are here think that we are seated. But we’re really standing on someone’s shoulders. Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Rosa Parks — the mother of the civil rights movement.

[Mrs. Rosa Parks is brought to the podium.]

I want to express my deep love and appreciation for the support my family has given me over these past months. They have endured pain, anxiety, threat, and fear. But they have been strengthened and made secure by our faith in God, in America, and in you. Your love has protected us and made us strong. To my wife Jackie, the foundation of our family to our five children whom you met tonight to my mother, Mrs. Helen Jackson, who is present tonight and to our grandmother, Mrs. Matilda Burns to my brother Chuck and his family to my mother-in-law, Mrs. Gertrude Brown, who just last month at age 61 graduated from Hampton Institute — a marvelous achievement.

I offer my appreciation to Mayor Andrew Young who has provided such gracious hospitality to all of us this week.

And a special salute to President Jimmy Carter. President Carter restored honor to the White House after Watergate. He gave many of us a special opportunity to grow. For his kind words, for his unwavering commitment to peace in the world, and for the voters that came from his family, every member of his family, led by Billy and Amy, I offer my special thanks to the Carter family.

My right and my privilege to stand here before you has been won, won in my lifetime, by the blood and the sweat of the innocent.

Twenty-four years ago, the late Fannie Lou Hamer and Aaron Henry — who sits here tonight from Mississippi — were locked out onto the streets in Atlantic City the head of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

But tonight, a Black and White delegation from Mississippi is headed by Ed Cole, a Black man from Mississippi twenty-four years later.

Many were lost in the struggle for the right to vote: Jimmy Lee Jackson, a young student, gave his life Viola Liuzzo, a White mother from Detroit, called “nigger lover,” and brains blown out at point blank range [Michael] Schwerner, [Andrew] Goodman and [James] Chaney — two Jews and a Black — found in a common grave, bodies riddled with bullets in Mississippi the four darling little girls in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. They died that we might have a right to live.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lies only a few miles from us tonight. Tonight he must feel good as he looks down upon us. We sit here together, a rainbow, a coalition — the sons and daughters of slavemasters and the sons and daughters of slaves, sitting together around a common table, to decide the direction of our party and our country. His heart would be full tonight.

As a testament to the struggles of those who have gone before as a legacy for those who will come after as a tribute to the endurance, the patience, the courage of our forefathers and mothers as an assurance that their prayers are being answered, that their work has not been in vain, and, that hope is eternal, tomorrow night my name will go into nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America.

We meet tonight at the crossroads, a point of decision. Shall we expand, be inclusive, find unity and power or suffer division and impotence?

We’ve come to Atlanta, the cradle of the Old South, the crucible of the New South. Tonight, there is a sense of celebration, because we are moved, fundamentally moved from racial battlegrounds by law, to economic common ground. Tomorrow we’ll challenge to move to higher ground.

Common ground. Think of Jerusalem, the intersection where many trails met. A small village that became the birthplace for three great religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Why was this village so blessed? Because it provided a crossroads where different people met, different cultures, different civilizations could meet and find common ground. When people come together, flowers always flourish — the air is rich with the aroma of a new spring.

Take New York, the dynamic metropolis. What makes New York so special? It’s the invitation at the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses who yearn to breathe free.” Not restricted to English only. Many people, many cultures, many languages with one thing in common: They yearn to breathe free. Common ground.

Tonight in Atlanta, for the first time in this century, we convene in the South a state where Governors once stood in school house doors where Julian Bond was denied a seat in the State Legislature because of his conscientious objection to the Vietnam War a city that, through its five Black Universities, has graduated more black students than any city in the world. Atlanta, now a modern intersection of the New South.

Common ground. That’s the challenge of our party tonight — left wing, right wing.
Progress will not come through boundless liberalism nor static conservatism, but at the critical mass of mutual survival — not at boundless liberalism nor static conservatism, but at the critical mass of mutual survival. It takes two wings to fly. Whether you’re a hawk or a dove, you’re just a bird living in the same environment, in the same world.

The Bible teaches that when lions and lambs lie down together, none will be afraid, and there will be peace in the valley. It sounds impossible. Lions eat lambs. Lambs sensibly flee from lions. Yet even lions and lambs find common ground. Why? Because neither lions nor lambs want the forest to catch on fire. Neither lions nor lambs want acid rain to fall. Neither lions nor lambs can survive nuclear war. If lions and lambs can find common ground, surely we can as well — as civilized people.

The only time that we win is when we come together. In 1960, John Kennedy, the late John Kennedy, beat Richard Nixon by only 112,000 votes — less than one vote per precinct. He won by the margin of our hope. He brought us together. He reached out. He had the courage to defy his advisors and inquire about Dr. King’s jailing in Albany, Georgia. We won by the margin of our hope, inspired by courageous leadership. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson brought both wings together — the thesis, the antithesis, and the creative synthesis — and together we won. In 1976, Jimmy Carter unified us again, and we won. When do we not come together, we never win. In 1968, the division and despair in July led to our defeat in November. In 1980, rancor in the spring and the summer led to Reagan in the fall. When we divide, we cannot win. We must find common ground as the basis for survival and development and change and growth.
Today when we debated, differed, deliberated, agreed to agree, agreed to disagree, when we had the good judgment to argue a case and then not self-destruct, George Bush was just a little further away from the White House and a little closer to private life.

Tonight, I salute Governor Michael Dukakis. He has run — He has run a well-managed and a dignified campaign. No matter how tired or how tried, he always resisted the temptation to stoop to demagoguery.

I’ve watched a good mind fast at work, with steel nerves, guiding his campaign out of the crowded field without appeal to the worst in us. I’ve watched his perspective grow as his environment has expanded. I’ve seen his toughness and tenacity close up. I know his commitment to public service. Mike Dukakis’ parents were a doctor and a teacher my parents a maid, a beautician, and a janitor. There’s a great gap between Brookline, Massachusetts and Haney Street in the Fieldcrest Village housing projects in Greenville, South Carolina.
He studied law I studied theology. There are differences of religion, region, and race differences in experiences and perspectives. But the genius of America is that out of the many we become one.

Providence has enabled our paths to intersect. His fore parents came to America on immigrant ships my fore parents came to America on slave ships. But whatever the original ships, we’re in the same boat tonight.

Our ships could pass in the night — if we have a false sense of independence — or they could collide and crash. We would lose our passengers. We can seek a high reality and a greater good. Apart, we can drift on the broken pieces of Reagonomics, satisfy our baser instincts, and exploit the fears of our people. At our highest, we can call upon noble instincts and navigate this vessel to safety. The greater good is the common good.

As Jesus said, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” It was his way of saying there’s a higher good beyond personal comfort or position.

The good of our Nation is at stake. It’s commitment to working men and women, to the poor and the vulnerable, to the many in the world.

With so many guided missiles, and so much misguided leadership, the stakes are exceedingly high. Our choice? Full participation in a democratic government, or more abandonment and neglect. And so this night, we choose not a false sense of independence, not our capacity to survive and endure. Tonight we choose interdependency, and our capacity to act and unite for the greater good.

Common good is finding commitment to new priorities to expansion and inclusion. A commitment to expanded participation in the Democratic Party at every level. A commitment to a shared national campaign strategy and involvement at every level.

A commitment to new priorities that insure that hope will be kept alive. A common ground commitment to a legislative agenda for empowerment, for the John Conyers bill — universal, on-site, same-day registration everywhere. A commitment to D.C. statehood and empowerment — D.C. deserves statehood. A commitment to economic set-asides, commitment to the Dellums bill for comprehensive sanctions against South Africa. A shared commitment to a common direction.
Common ground.

Easier said than done. Where do you find common ground? At the point of challenge. This campaign has shown that politics need not be marketed by politicians, packaged by pollsters and pundits. Politics can be a moral arena where people come together to find common ground.
We find common ground at the plant gate that closes on workers without notice. We find common ground at the farm auction, where a good farmer loses his or her land to bad loans or diminishing markets. Common ground at the school yard where teachers cannot get adequate pay, and students cannot get a scholarship, and can’t make a loan. Common ground at the hospital admitting room, where somebody tonight is dying because they cannot afford to go upstairs to a bed that’s empty waiting for someone with insurance to get sick. We are a better nation than that.

Common ground. What is leadership if not present help in a time of crisis? And so I met you at the point of challenge. In Jay, Maine, where paper workers were striking for fair wages in Greenville, Iowa, where family farmers struggle for a fair price in Cleveland, Ohio, where working women seek comparable worth in McFarland, California, where the children of Hispanic farm workers may be dying from poisoned land, dying in clusters with cancer in an AIDS hospice in Houston, Texas, where the sick support one another, too often rejected by their own parents and friends.
Common ground. America is not a blanket woven from one thread, one color, one cloth. When I was a child growing up in Greenville, South Carolina and grandmamma could not afford a blanket, she didn’t complain and we did not freeze. Instead she took pieces of old cloth — patches, wool, silk, gabardine, crocker sack — only patches, barely good enough to wipe off your shoes with. But they didn’t stay that way very long. With sturdy hands and a strong cord, she sewed them together into a quilt, a thing of beauty and power and culture. Now, Democrats, we must build such a quilt.

Farmers, you seek fair prices and you are right — but you cannot stand alone. Your patch is not big enough.

Workers, you fight for fair wages, you are right — but your patch labor is not big enough.
Women, you seek comparable worth and pay equity, you are right — but your patch is not big enough.

Women, mothers, who seek Head Start, and day care and prenatal care on the front side of life, relevant jail care and welfare on the back side of life, you are right — but your patch is not big enough.

Students, you seek scholarships, you are right — but your patch is not big enough.
Blacks and Hispanics, when we fight for civil rights, we are right — but our patch is not big enough.

Gays and lesbians, when you fight against discrimination and a cure for AIDS, you are right — but your patch is not big enough.

Conservatives and progressives, when you fight for what you believe, right wing, left wing, hawk, dove, you are right from your point of view, but your point of view is not enough.
But don’t despair. Be as wise as my grandmamma. Pull the patches and the pieces together, bound by a common thread. When we form a great quilt of unity and common ground, we’ll have the power to bring about health care and housing and jobs and education and hope to our Nation.
We, the people, can win.

We stand at the end of a long dark night of reaction. We stand tonight united in the commitment to a new direction. For almost eight years we’ve been led by those who view social good coming from private interest, who view public life as a means to increase private wealth. They have been prepared to sacrifice the common good of the many to satisfy the private interests and the wealth of a few.

We believe in a government that’s a tool of our democracy in service to the public, not an instrument of the aristocracy in search of private wealth. We believe in government with the consent of the governed, “of, for and by the people.” We must now emerge into a new day with a new direction.

Reaganomics: Based on the belief that the rich had too much money [sic] — too little money and the poor had too much. That’s classic Reaganomics. They believe that the poor had too much money and the rich had too little money,- so they engaged in reverse Robin Hood – took from the poor, gave to the rich, paid for by the middle class. We cannot stand four more years of Reaganomics in any version, in any disguise.

How do I document that case? Seven years later, the richest 1 percent of our society pays 20 percent less in taxes. The poorest 10 percent pay 20 percent more: Reaganomics.

Reagan gave the rich and the powerful a multibillion-dollar party. Now the party is over. He expects the people to pay for the damage. I take this principal position, convention, let us not raise taxes on the poor and the middle-class, but those who had the party, the rich and the powerful, must pay for the party.

I just want to take common sense to high places. We’re spending one hundred and fifty billion dollars a year defending Europe and Japan 43 years after the war is over. We have more troops in Europe tonight than we had seven years ago. Yet the threat of war is ever more remote.
Germany and Japan are now creditor nations that means they’ve got a surplus. We are a debtor nation — means we are in debt. Let them share more of the burden of their own defense. Use some of that money to build decent housing. Use some of that money to educate our children. Use some of that money for long-term health care. Use some of that money to wipe out these slums and put America back to work!

I just want to take common sense to high places. If we can bail out Europe and Japan if we can bail out Continental Bank and Chrysler — and Mr. Iacocca, make [sic] 8,000 dollars an hour — we can bail out the family farmer.

I just want to make common sense. It does not make sense to close down six hundred and fifty thousand family farms in this country while importing food from abroad subsidized by the U.S. Government. Let’s make sense.

It does not make sense to be escorting all our tankers up and down the Persian Gulf paying $2.50 for every one dollar worth of oil we bring out, while oil wells are capped in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. I just want to make sense.

Leadership must meet the moral challenge of its day. What’s the moral challenge of our day? We have public accommodations. We have the right to vote. We have open housing. What’s the fundamental challenge of our day? It is to end economic violence. Plant closings without notice — economic violence. Even the greedy do not profit long from greed — economic violence.
Most poor people are not lazy. They are not black. They are not brown. They are mostly White and female and young. But whether White, Black or Brown, a hungry baby’s belly turned inside out is the same color — color it pain color it hurt color it agony.

Most poor people are not on welfare. Some of them are illiterate and can’t read the want-ad sections. And when they can, they can’t find a job that matches the address. They work hard everyday.

I know. I live amongst them. I’m one of them. I know they work. I’m a witness. They catch the early bus. They work every day.

They raise other people’s children. They work everyday.

They clean the streets. They work everyday. They drive dangerous cabs. They work everyday. They change the beds you slept in–in these hotels last night and can’t get a union contract. They work everyday.

No, no, they are not lazy! Someone must defend them because it’s right, and they cannot speak for themselves. They work in hospitals. I know they do. They wipe the bodies of those who are sick with fever and pain. They empty their bedpans. They clean out their commodes. No job is beneath them, and yet when they get sick they cannot lie in the bed they made up every day. America, that is not right. We are a better Nation than that. We are a better Nation than that.
We need a real war on drugs. You can’t “just say no.” It’s deeper than that. You can’t just get a palm reader or an astrologer. It’s more profound than that.

We are spending a hundred and fifty billion dollars on drugs a year. We’ve gone from ignoring it to focusing on the children. Children cannot buy a hundred and fifty billion dollars worth of drugs a year a few high-profile athletes — athletes are not laundering a hundred and fifty billion dollars a year — bankers are.

I met the children in Watts, who, unfortunately, in their despair, their grapes of hope have become raisins of despair, and they’re turning on each other and they’re self-destructing. But I stayed with them all night long. I wanted to hear their case.

They said, “Jesse Jackson, as you challenge us to say no to drugs, you’re right and to not sell them, you’re right and not use these guns, you’re right.” (And by the way, the promise of CETA [Comprehensive Employment and Training Act] they displaced CETA — they did not replace CETA.)

“We have neither jobs nor houses nor services nor training — no way out. Some of us take drugs as anesthesia for our pain. Some take drugs as a way of pleasure, good short-term pleasure and long-term pain. Some sell drugs to make money. It’s wrong, we know, but you need to know that we know. We can go and buy the drugs by the boxes at the port. If we can buy the drugs at the port, don’t you believe the Federal government can stop it if they want to?”

They say, “We don’t have Saturday night specials anymore.” They say, “We buy AK47’s and Uzi’s, the latest make of weapons. We buy them across the along these boulevards.”
You cannot fight a war on drugs unless and until you’re going to challenge the bankers and the gun sellers and those who grow them. Don’t just focus on the children let’s stop drugs at the level of supply and demand. We must end the scourge on the American Culture.
Leadership. What difference will we make? Leadership. Cannot just go along to get along. We must do more than change Presidents. We must change direction.

Leadership must face the moral challenge of our day. The nuclear war build-up is irrational. Strong leadership cannot desire to look tough and let that stand in the way of the pursuit of peace. Leadership must reverse the arms race. At least we should pledge no first use. Why? Because first use begets first retaliation. And that’s mutual annihilation. That’s not a rational way out.
No use at all. Let’s think it out and not fight it our because it’s an unwinnable fight. Why hold a card that you can never drop? Let’s give peace a chance.

Leadership. We now have this marvelous opportunity to have a breakthrough with the Soviets. Last year 200,000 Americans visited the Soviet Union. There’s a chance for joint ventures into space — not Star Wars and war arms escalation but a space defense initiative. Let’s build in the space together and demilitarize the heavens. There’s a way out.

America, let us expand. When Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev met there was a big meeting. They represented together one-eighth of the human race. Seven-eighths of the human race was locked out of that room. Most people in the world tonight — half are Asian, one-half of them are Chinese. There are 22 nations in the Middle East. There’s Europe 40 million Latin Americans next door to us the Caribbean Africa — a half-billion people.

Most people in the world today are Yellow or Brown or Black, non-Christian, poor, female, young and don’t speak English in the real world.

This generation must offer leadership to the real world. We’re losing ground in Latin America, Middle East, South Africa because we’re not focusing on the real world. That’s the real world. We must use basic principles — support international law. We stand the most to gain from it. Support human rights — we believe in that. Support self-determination — we’re built on that. Support economic development — you know it’s right. Be consistent and gain our moral authority in the world. I challenge you tonight, my friends, let’s be bigger and better as a Nation and as a Party.

We have basic challenges — freedom in South Africa. We’ve already agreed as Democrats to declare South Africa to be a terrorist state. But don’t just stop there. Get South Africa out of Angola free Namibia support the front line states. We must have a new humane human rights consistent policy in Africa.

I’m often asked, “Jesse, why do you take on these tough issues? They’re not very political. We can’t win that way.”

If an issue is morally right, it will eventually be political. It may be political and never be right. Fannie Lou Hamer didn’t have the most votes in Atlantic City, but her principles have outlasted every delegate who voted to lock her out. Rosa Parks did not have the most votes, but she was morally right. Dr. King didn’t have the most votes about the Vietnam War, but he was morally right. If we are principled first, our politics will fall in place.

“Jesse, why do you take these big bold initiatives?” A poem by an unknown author went something like this: “We mastered the air, we conquered the sea, annihilated distance and prolonged life, but we’re not wise enough to live on this earth without war and without hate.”
As for Jesse Jackson: “I’m tired of sailing my little boat, far inside the harbor bar. I want to go out where the big ships float, out on the deep where the great ones are. And should my frail craft prove too slight for waves that sweep those billows o’er, I’d rather go down in the stirring fight than drowse to death at the sheltered shore.”

We’ve got to go out, my friends, where the big boats are.

And then for our children. Young America, hold your head high now. We can win. We must not lose you to drugs and violence, premature pregnancy, suicide, cynicism, pessimism and despair. We can win. Wherever you are tonight, I challenge you to hope and to dream. Don’t submerge your dreams. Exercise above all else, even on drugs, dream of the day you are drug free. Even in the gutter, dream of the day that you will be up on your feet again.

You must never stop dreaming. Face reality, yes, but don’t stop with the way things are. Dream of things as they ought to be. Dream. Face pain, but love, hope, faith and dreams will help you rise above the pain. Use hope and imagination as weapons of survival and progress, but you keep on dreaming, young America. Dream of peace. Peace is rational and reasonable. War is irrationable [sic] in this age, and unwinnable.

Dream of teachers who teach for life and not for a living. Dream of doctors who are concerned more about public health than private wealth. Dream of lawyers more concerned about justice than a judgeship. Dream of preachers who are concerned more about prophecy than profiteering. Dream on the high road with sound values.

And then America, as we go forth to September, October, November and then beyond, America must never surrender to a high moral challenge.

Do not surrender to drugs. The best drug policy is a “no first use.” Don’t surrender with needles and cynicism. Let’s have “no first use” on the one hand, or clinics on the other. Never surrender, young America. Go forward.

America must never surrender to malnutrition. We can feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We must never surrender. We must go forward.

We must never surrender to illiteracy. Invest in our children. Never surrender and go forward. We must never surrender to inequality. Women cannot compromise ERA or comparable worth. Women are making 60 cents on the dollar to what a man makes. Women cannot buy meat cheaper. Women cannot buy bread cheaper. Women cannot buy milk cheaper. Women deserve to get paid for the work that you do. It’s right! And it’s fair.

Don’t surrender, my friends. Those who have AIDS tonight, you deserve our compassion. Even with AIDS you must not surrender.

In your wheelchairs. I see you sitting here tonight in those wheelchairs. I’ve stayed with you. I’ve reached out to you across our Nation. And don’t you give up. I know it’s tough sometimes. People look down on you. It took you a little more effort to get here tonight. And no one should look down on you, but sometimes mean people do. The only justification we have for looking down on someone is that we’re going to stop and pick them up.

But even in your wheelchairs, don’t you give up. We cannot forget 50 years ago when our backs were against the wall, Roosevelt was in a wheelchair. I would rather have Roosevelt in a wheelchair than Reagan and Bush on a horse. Don’t you surrender and don’t you give up. Don’t surrender and don’t give up!

Why I cannot challenge you this way? “Jesse Jackson, you don’t understand my situation. You be on television. You don’t understand. I see you with the big people. You don’t understand my situation.”

I understand. You see me on TV, but you don’t know the me that makes me, me. They wonder, “Why does Jesse run?” because they see me running for the White House. They don’t see the house I’m running from.

I have a story. I wasn’t always on television. Writers were not always outside my door. When I was born late one afternoon, October 8th, in Greenville, South Carolina, no writers asked my mother her name. Nobody chose to write down our address. My mama was not supposed to make it, and I was not supposed to make it. You see, I was born of a teen-age mother, who was born of a teen-age mother.

I understand. I know abandonment, and people being mean to you, and saying you’re nothing and nobody and can never be anything.

I understand. Jesse Jackson is my third name. I’m adopted. When I had no name, my grandmother gave me her name. My name was Jesse Burns ’til I was 12. So I wouldn’t have a blank space, she gave me a name to hold me over. I understand when nobody knows your name. I understand when you have no name.

I understand. I wasn’t born in the hospital. Mama didn’t have insurance. I was born in the bed at [the] house. I really do understand. Born in a three-room house, bathroom in the backyard, slop jar by the bed, no hot and cold running water. I understand. Wallpaper used for decoration? No. For a windbreaker. I understand. I’m a working person’s person. That’s why I understand you whether you’re Black or White. I understand work. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I had a shovel programmed for my hand.

My mother, a working woman. So many of the days she went to work early, with runs in her stockings. She knew better, but she wore runs in her stockings so that my brother and I could have matching socks and not be laughed at in school. I understand.

At 3 o’clock on Thanksgiving Day, we couldn’t eat turkey because momma was preparing somebody else’s turkey at 3 o’clock. We had to play football to entertain ourselves. And then around 6 o’clock she would get off the Alta Vista bus and we would bring up the leftovers and eat our turkey — leftovers, the carcass, the cranberries — around 8 o’clock at night. I really do understand.
Every one of these funny labels they put on you, those of you who are watching this broadcast tonight in the projects, on the corners, I understand. Call you outcast, low down, you can’t make it, you’re nothing, you’re from nobody, subclass, underclass when you see Jesse Jackson, when my name goes in nomination, your name goes in nomination.

I was born in the slum, but the slum was not born in me. And it wasn’t born in you, and you can make it.

Wherever you are tonight, you can make it. Hold your head high stick your chest out. You can make it. It gets dark sometimes, but the morning comes. Don’t you surrender!
Suffering breeds character, character breeds faith. In the end faith will not disappoint.
You must not surrender! You may or may not get there but just know that you’re qualified! And you hold on, and hold out! We must never surrender!! America will get better and better.
Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive! On tomorrow night and beyond, keep hope alive!


Andrew Jackson’s Early Life

Andrew Jackson was born on March 15, 1767, in the Waxhaws region on the border of North and South Carolina. The exact location of his birth is uncertain, and both states have claimed him as a native son Jackson himself maintained he was from South Carolina. The son of Irish immigrants, Jackson received little formal schooling. The British invaded the Carolinas in 1780-1781, and Jackson’s mother and two brothers died during the conflict, leaving him with a lifelong hostility toward Great Britain.

Did you know? During their invasion of the western Carolinas in 1780-1781, British soldiers took the young Andrew Jackson prisoner. When Jackson refused to shine one officer&aposs boots, the officer struck him across the face with a saber, leaving lasting scars.

Jackson read law in his late teens and earned admission to the North Carolina bar in 1787. He soon moved west of the Appalachians to the region that would soon become the state of Tennessee, and began working as a prosecuting attorney in the settlement that became Nashville. He later set up his own private practice and met and married Rachel (Donelson) Robards, the daughter of a local colonel. Jackson grew prosperous enough to build a mansion, the Hermitage, near Nashville, and to buy slaves. In 1796, Jackson joined a convention charged with drafting the new Tennessee state constitution and became the first man to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee. Though he declined to seek reelection and returned home in March 1797, he was almost immediately elected to the U.S. Senate. Jackson resigned a year later and was elected judge of Tennessee’s superior court. He was later chosen to head the state militia, a position he held when war broke out with Great Britain in 1812.


Her campaign was not well received, even by fellow Black politicians

As the campaign was progressing, the Vietnam War was still being fought and the women’s movement was just starting to emerge. Fighting Shirley used it as fuel to forge ahead. “There are people in our history who don’t look left or right, they just look straight ahead,” Obama said of her in 2015, noting that she was 𠇍riven by a profound commitment to justice.”

With the slogan “Unbought and Unbossed,” Chisholm thought that she might be able to use her historic run to rally up both the female and minority voters. She also heralded a personal understanding of the needs of the poor and disenfranchised more than any other candidate.

𠇋ut these traits are not the stuff of which election victories are made,” The New York Times noted of the big hole in her campaign. “Victory requires money, well‐placed support and slick, professionally-led political organization.”

Indeed, she had only started her presidential run with about $40,000 — the paper said that was just a fraction of what other candidates spent on TV ads for just a primary election in one state. And on top of that, getting top tier support proved to be a challenge. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who seemed like a likely Chisholm support, sided with her opponent George McGovern, as did Jesse Jackson.

“Mrs. Chisholm encountered a Black leadership that was divided and occasionally hostile wherever she campaigned,” The New York Times said. “In North Carolina, Black leaders went so far as to proclaim publicly that 𠆊 vote for Shirley Chisholm is a vote for George Wallace,’” referring to the “semi-reformed segregationist who ran openly racist campaign advertisements,” as the Smithsonian described him.

And as proof of just how untraditional Chisholm was, when Wallace became paralyzed after an assassination attempt, she went and visited him in the hospital.


Share All sharing options for: Chicago voices central to PBS series on history of ‘The Black Church,’ from slavery to Trump

“The Black Church,” a two-part documentary premiering Tuesday, shines a light on the role of the church in Black America’s journey from slavery through the present-day rise of white supremacy, with prominent Chicago luminaries including Oprah Winfrey, Jesse Jackson and Jeremiah Wright helping tell the story. Here, noted Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who produced and narrates the film, admires a mural at West Angeles Church of God In Christ in Los Angeles. Provided

Part 1 of PBS’ “The Black Church,” premiering Tuesday, is difficult to watch, beginning as it must with America’s original sin of slavery.

Noted Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates spares us no details on the brutality and horror necessitating a reliance on God — a God carried in slave ships across the Middle Passage, or one indoctrinated by white slave owners, sprouting denominations as America evolved.

Part 2, to air Feb. 23, is easier to consume. It’s a fascinating trek through the second half of the century, from the Civil Rights Movement led by a young Baptist preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to the Black empowerment movement represented by another young preacher, the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Jackson would build on King’s legacy of religion melding with politics, in two historic runs for president of a nation that enslaved his ancestors.

The series moves through the election of Barack Obama, the first Black president, whose path to the White House was marked by an infamous break from the church that molded him, after controversial sermons by Trinity United Church of Christ pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, surfaced.

At times jarring, at times poignant, the documentary is riveting, with prominent Chicagoans such as Larry G. Murphy, professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, and Barbara Ransby, professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, accompanying viewers on this voyage through the spiritual history of Black Americans, and the strength of a people.

From slavery on, the Black church was their bedrock of survival and grace, organizing and resilience, the struggle for autonomy and freedom. And other prominent Chicagoans, including Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Hudson, raised in the church, share how their faith impacted their journeys.

Singer John Legend, also part of the documentary, admits he no longer finds what he needs in the church, and no longer attends.

For Oprah, on the other hand, reaching the pinnacles of American success never quenched her connection to it.

“The master, in my opinion, is T.D. Jakes,” the media mogul says of the pastor of The Potter’s House, a 14,000-capacity megachurch on 400 acres outside Dallas. “Sometimes I would just get in my plane and fly to Dallas and to The Potter’s House and sit in the service, just to hear those ‘Amens!’”

Spanning the growth of the church from slave “praise houses” to the early Black churches sprouting within the Baptist, African Methodist Episcopal, Pentecostal and Church of God In Christ denominations, the series unveils the root of storefront churches that proliferated in inner cities, and the ascent of megachurches like Potter’s House and Chicago’s Trinity.

“In 1972, fresh from divinity school and full of ideas, Jeremiah Wright arrived at Trinity United Church of Christ on the impoverished South Side of Chicago. The congregation had dwindled to 87 members and the local community felt the church wasn’t meeting its needs,” says narrator Gates, in a portion that explores ’70s Black Liberation Theology.

In a transfixing interview, a now aged Wright recalls his start, and the pivotal moment that nearly derailed Obama’s presidential campaign.

“The core group said, ‘All we need to do is find a young fool to conduct a funeral for a dying congregation. I told them Jesus never conducted any funerals. He conducted resurrections,” Wright said of how he came to build Trinity into an 8,000-member church that included Obama and his family as members.

“The Black Church,” a two-part documentary premiering Tuesday, explores the growth of the church from slave “praise houses” like this one at Sapelo, a rustic cabin type structure used as a church with a bell in front, through the ascent of modern-day megachurches like Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Photograph by Muriel and Malcolm Bell, Library of Congress

Wright officiated the Obamas’ wedding and baptized their children. But the controversy over a sermon he gave during the Iraq War, heavily critical of America led to Obama’s historic “A More Perfect Union,” aka, “The Race Speech.”

“Like other predominantly Black churches, Trinity contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love, and yes, the bitterness and biases that make up the Black experience in America,” Obama said in the speech severing ties with Trinity.

Gates recounts the disappointment among a large sector of Black Americans, who saw it as betraying a church that “had done so much to launch him on the path to the White House.”

Another engrossing portion follows the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s Jackson, who rose to prominence in the ’80s, as the conservative public policies of President Ronald Reagan eroded the social safety net, communities of color suffering in an economic downturn.

A King protege, Jackson “had the swagger. He didn’t wear a suit and tie. He had the big ’fro. I said, ‘That’s the kind of preacher I wanna be,’ because he never pastored a church. He said, ‘The whole country is my podium,’” recounts the Rev. Al Sharpton, among those interviewed.

“The Black Church,” a two-part documentary premiering Tuesday, shines a light on the role of the church in Black America’s journey from slavery through the present-day rise of white supremacy. The church was instrumental in the Great Migration that brought 6 million African Americans North from the South. Here, Southerners arrive at a Chicago train station. General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH) of the United Methodist Church, Madison, N.J.

Jackson, who ran for president in 1984 and 1988, “found ways to leverage the latent power of Black congregations to bring Dr. King’s activist spirit into the political realm,” and though his campaigns fell short, inspired a generation of activists like Sharpton, notes Gates.

The series covers the historic struggle of the Black church with the LGBTQ movement during the AIDS epidemic the struggle of women to serve in its pulpits and conflicts with movements led by the younger hip-hop and then Black Lives Matter generations.

“These new school activists rejected old models of political leadership, including the role of the church,” Gates notes of young activists today combatting police brutality.

“Young women have been very important leaders in the movement for ‘Black Lives,’ but it’s not steeped in a religious institution,” UIC’s Ransby notes of the disconnect between today’s Black Lives Matter Movement and the Black church.

“And it’s certainly not steeped in the kind of patriarchal traditions often represented in the formal institutions of the Black church,” Ransby added.

On June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old, self-proclaimed white supremacist massacred nine people during Bible study at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. On June 26, 2015, President Barack Obama delivered the eulogy at the funeral of senior pastor the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, at the College of Charleston. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

The series culminates with the Black church again front and center in the battle against a rise in white supremacy and hate crimes during the four years under President Donald Trump. One of the most poignant portions covers the 2015 massacre of nine people during Bible study at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, by a self-proclaimed white supremacist.

The footage of the 21-year-old murderer entering the church, and the 911 calls, are chilling. But just as impactful is the footage of Obama singing “Amazing Grace” at the memorial.

“In the face of unthinkable racial violence, the man who during his first presidential campaign had navigated the complex web of race, religion and politics, became the pastor for the nation,” opines Gates of that unforgettable, unifying moment.

“The foundation of the African-American spiritual journey was formed out of fragments of faith that our ancestors brought with them to this country starting 500 years ago. And out of those fragments grew the powerful institution that we fondly call the Black church,” Gates concludes.

“The Black church was the place where our people somehow made a way out of no way. And it’s the place to which after a long and tiresome journey, we can always return and call home.”


Watch the video: Jesse Jacksons Run for the Presidency 1984 (June 2022).


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