Jackson, Jesse Louis, 1941–, African-American political leader, clergyman, and civil-rights activist, b. Greenville, S.C. Raised in poverty, he attended the Chicago Theological Seminary (1963–65) and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1968. Active in the civil-rights movement, he became a close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. He served as executive director (1966–71) of Operation Breadbasket, a program of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) that addressed the economic problems of African Americans in northern cities. In 1971 he founded Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), an organization to combat racism. Since 1986 he has been president of the National Rainbow Coalition, an independent political organization aimed at uniting disparate groups—racial minorities, the poor, peace activists, and environmentalists. In 1984 and 1988, Jackson, an effective public speaker, campaigned for the Democratic nomination for president, becoming the first African American to contend seriously for that office. He was elected (1990) as a nonvoting member of the Senate from the District of Columbia and has campaigned for its statehood. He has written Legal Lynching (1996), an attack on capital punishment.
See biography by M. Frady (1996); studies by A. L. Reed, Jr. (1986), E. O. Coulton (1989), A. D. Hertzke (1993), and K. L. Stanford (1997).