Sharpton, Rev. Al

Sharpton, Rev. Al (Alfred Charles Sharpton), 1954- , African-American minister and civil rights activist, b, Brownsville, Brooklyn, N.Y. A child-prodigy preacher, Sharpton is said to have given his first sermon at age four, and was ordained as a Pentecostal minister (variously reported at age 9 or 10); he later became a Baptist minister (in 1994). When he was 16, he founded the National Youth Movement to publicize the needs of children living in poverty, and a year later, in 1972, he served as youth director for Shirley Chisholm’s presidential campaign. Besides his political activism, from 1973-80 Sharpton managed singer James Brown’s tours. Inspired by several incidents in which Black New Yorkers were subject to violence or harassment, Sharpton became a leader of rallies and protests in New York City in the mid-‘80s, leading him to form the National Action Network in 1991. Sharpton has run for several political offices, including for Mayor of New York City (1997), Senator from New York (1988, 1992, 1994), and President of the United States (2004). In 2011, he began hosting the shown Politics Nation on cable news network MSNBC, where he is also a regular commentator. Sharpton has admitted to being an FBI informant in the 1980s, claiming he was working to stem the flow of drugs into Black communities. He also has had various run-ins with the IRS and other authorities regarding unpaid taxes.

See his autobiographies (1996, 2013); political writing, Rise Up: Confronting a Country at the Crossroads (2020; with M.E. Dyson).

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