Jesse Jackson

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Will Smith has been cast to play Jackson in an upcoming film. Jackson in 1983

Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr (born 1941) is a Baptist minister, civil rights leader, and politician. He unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1984 and 1988. Jackson attended the University of Illinois, the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina, and the Chicago Theological Seminary. He was ordained a minister in 1968.

Jackson first became involved in civil rights in the 1960s when he marched with Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama. He was in Memphis, Tennessee when King was assassinated but whether or not he was with him at the time remains controversial. At any rate, acting as the heir apparent to Dr. King, he established the National Rainbow Coalition in 1984. During the 1970s Jackson began travelling abroad and negotiated the release of American civilians and soldiers in foreign countries. This earned him much praise but his diplomatic missions were criticized by some as meddlesome.

Until Barack Obama, Jackson was the most successful African-American candidate for president. The campaign was scuttled due to Jackson's (many) public gaffes, effectively ending the viability of the Rainbow movement (which he converted into a Presidential campaign vehicle). Both Jackson and colleague, Rev. Al Sharpton, have drawn ire from left wingers as well as the right: Jackson for his hypocritical racism, anti-Semitism (i.e. referring to New York City as "Hymietown") and marital infidelities (e.g. the 2001 revelation that Jackson had fathered a child out of wedlock); and Sharpton for his somewhat shady past and demagogic style.

In 1998 he counseled President Clinton during his impeachment trials and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Clinton two years later.

Jackson remains a somewhat controversial figure in the realm of politics and continues to promote social activism and lead protests.

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