Jackson attended Sterling High School, a segregated high school in Greenville, where he was an outstanding student-athlete. Upon graduating in 1959, he rejected a contract from a professional baseball team to attend the racially integrated University of Illinois on a football scholarship. However, one year later, Jackson transferred to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T) located in Greensboro. The change was based on the school's racial biases which included: Jackson being unable to play as a quarterback despite being a star quarterback at his high school and being demoted by his speech professor as an alternate in a public speaking competition team despite the support of his teammates who elected him a place on the team for his superior abilities.
Jackson is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
In 1965, Jesse Jackson participated in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s movement in Selma, Alabama. When Jackson returned from Selma, he threw himself into King's effort to establish a beachhead of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Chicago. In 1966, King selected Jackson to be head of the SCLC's Operation Breadbasket in Chicago, and promoted him to be the national director in 1967. Following the example of Reverend Leon Sullivan of Philadelphia, a key goal of the new group was to foster "selective buying" (boycotts) as a means to pressure white businesses to hire blacks and purchase goods and services from black contractors. One of Sullivan's precursors was Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a wealthy South Side doctor and entrepreneur and key financial contributor to Operation Breadbasket. Before he moved to Chicago from Mississippi in 1956, Howard, as the head of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, had successfully organized a boycott against service stations that refused to provide restrooms for blacks.
Jackson was present with King in Memphis when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, the day after making his famous "I've been to the mountaintop" speech given to the Mason Temple, Church of God in Christ.
Beginning in 1968, Jackson increasingly clashed with Ralph Abernathy, King's successor as head of the national SCLC. In December, 1971, they had a complete falling out. Abernathy suspended Jackson for "administrative improprieties and repeated acts of violation of organizational policy." Jackson resigned, called together his allies, and Operation PUSH was born during the same month. The new group was organized in the home of Dr. T.R.M. Howard who also became a member of the board of directors and chair of the finance committee.
In 1984, Jackson organized the Rainbow Coalition, which later merged, in 1996, with Operation PUSH. The newly formed Rainbow PUSH organization brought the reverend's role as an important and effective organizer to the mainstream.
Civil rights leader
During the 1980s, he achieved wide fame as an African American leader and as a politician, as well as becoming a well-known spokesman for civil rights issues.
In 1983, Jackson traveled to Syria to secure the release of a captured American pilot, Navy Lt. Robert Goodman who was being held by the Syrian government. Goodman had been shot down over Lebanon while on a mission to bomb Syrian positions in that country. After a dramatic personal appeal that Jackson made to Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, Goodman was released. Initially, the Reagan administration was skeptical about Jackson's trip to Syria. However, after Jackson secured Goodman's release, United States President Ronald Reagan welcomed both Jackson and Goodman at the White House on January 4, 1984 International activities
In 1984, Jackson became the second African American (after Shirley Chisholm) to mount a nationwide campaign for President of the United States, running as a Democrat.
In the primaries, Jackson, who had been written off by pundits as a fringe candidate with little chance at winning the nomination, surprised many when he took third place behind Senator Gary Hart and former Vice President Walter Mondale, who eventually won the nomination. Jackson garnered 3.5 million votes and won five primaries, including Michigan.
As he had gained 21% of the popular vote but only 8% of delegates, he afterwards complained that he had been handicapped by party rules. While Mondale (in the words of his aides) was determined to establish a precedent with his vice presidential candidate by picking a woman or visible minority, Jackson criticized the screening process as a "p.r. parade of personalities". He also mocked Mondale, saying that Hubert Humphrey was the "last significant politician out of the St. Paul–Minneapolis" area. 
Four years later, in 1988, Jackson once again offered himself as a candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. This time, his successes in the past made him a more credible candidate, and he was both better financed and better organized. Although most people did not seem to believe that he had a serious chance at winning, Jackson once again exceeded expectations as he more than doubled his previous results, capturing 6.9 million votes and winning eleven primaries. Briefly, after he won 55% of the vote in the Michigan Democrat caucus, he was considered the frontrunner for the nomination, as he surpassed all the other candidates in total number of pledged delegates.
Jackson's campaign, however, suffered a significant setback less than two weeks later when he was defeated handily in Wisconsin primary by Michael Dukakis. Jackson's showing among white voters in Wisconsin was significantly higher than in his 1984 run, but was also noticeably lower than pre-primary polling had indicated it would be. The discrepancy has been cited as an example of the so-called "Bradley effect".
In both races, Jackson ran on what many considered to be a very liberal platform. Declaring that he wanted to create a "Rainbow Coalition" of various minority groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, the poor and working poor, and homosexuals, as well as white progressives who fit into none of those categories, Jackson ran on a platform that included:
With the exception of a resolution to implement sanctions against South Africa for its Apartheid policies, none of these positions made it into the party's platform in either 1984 or 1988.
creating a Works Progress Administration-style program to rebuild America's infrastructure and provide jobs to all Americans,
reprioritizing the War on Drugs to focus less on mandatory minimum sentences for drug users (which he views as racially biased) and more on harsher punishments for money-laundering bankers and others who are part of the "supply" end of "supply and demand,"
reversing Reaganomics-inspired tax cuts for the richest ten percent of Americans and using the money to finance social welfare programs,
cutting the budget of the Department of Defense by as much as fifteen percent over the course of his administration,
declaring Apartheid-era South Africa to be a rogue nation,
instituting an immediate nuclear freeze and beginning disarmament negotiations with the Soviet Union,
giving reparations to descendants of black slaves,
supporting family farmers by reviving many of Roosevelt's New Deal–era farm programs,
creating a single-payer system of universal health care,
ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment,
increasing federal funding for lower-level public education and providing free community college to all,
applying stricter enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, and
supporting the formation of a Palestinian state. Campaign platform
Although Jackson was one of the most liberal members of the Democratic Party, his views on abortion were originally more in line with pro-life views. Jackson once endorsed the pro-life Hyde Amendment and wrote an article in a 1977 National Right to Life Committee News report:
"There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of [a] higher order than the right to life ... that was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore outside your right to be concerned.
"What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of a person and what kind of a society will we have twenty years hence if life can be taken so casually? It is that question, the question of our attitude, our value system, and our mind-set with regard to the nature and worth of life itself that is the central question confronting mankind. Failure to answer that question affirmatively may leave us with a hell right here on earth."
However, since then, Rev. Jackson has adopted an openly pro-choice view, believing the right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy is fundamental and should not be infringed in any way by the government.
Jesse Jackson's most recent project related to presidential politics was gathering information and support to investigate the 2004 U.S. presidential election controversy, particularly the voting results in Ohio and its recount. Jackson called for a congressional debate on the matter, asking for a fair count and national voting standards. He said that the elections in the United States are each run with different standards by different states with partisan tricks, racial bias, and widespread incompetence and are an open scandal.
Jackson said that he held some hope that the election could be overturned, although he admitted that that was very doubtful. Jackson compared the voting irregularities of Ohio to that of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, saying that if Ohio were Ukraine, the U.S. presidential election would not have been certified by the international community. Jackson has called Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell inappropriately partisan and said that Blackwell may have been pressured by President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney to deliver Ohio to the Republican Party.
Based on information obtained in hearings held by Rep. John Conyers (Detroit, Michigan) and discovered during a flawed recount of the Ohio presidential vote called for by Green Party candidate David Cobb and Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik, Jackson suggested that the Ohio voting machines were "rigged" and that some African-Americans were forced to stand in line for six hours in the rain before voting. When asked for evidence, Jackson did not give facts, but replied, "Based on distrusting the system, lack of paper trails, the anomaly of the exit polls."
On January 6, 2005, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Democrat staff released a 100 page report on the Ohio election. This challenge to the Ohio election was rejected by a vote of 74-1 by the United States Senate and 267-31 in the House. Many high-ranking Democrats chose to distance themselves from this debate, including John Kerry, despite Jesse Jackson personally asking Kerry for help. The call for election reform legislation and voting rights protection nonetheless continued from various citizen groups.
2004 presidential election
While Jesse Jackson was initially critical of the "Third Way" or more moderate policies of Bill Clinton, he became a key ally in gaining African American support for Clinton and eventually became a close advisor and friend of the Clinton family. Clinton awarded Jesse Jackson the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest honor bestowed on civilians. His son, Jesse Jackson, Jr., also emerged as a political figure, becoming a member of the United States House of Representatives from Illinois. Jackson is also known as a passionate orator, in the tradition of Southern U.S. and African American Protestant preaching. In 2003, Jackson surprised many observers by declining to endorse the campaigns of either the Reverend Al Sharpton or former Senator Carol Moseley Braun, the two African-American candidates, in the race for the Democratic Party's 2004 presidential nomination. Instead, Jackson remained largely silent about his preference in the race until late in the primary season, when he allowed Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, another presidential candidate, to speak at a Rainbow/PUSH forum on March 31, 2004. Although he did not explicitly voice an endorsement of Rep. Kucinich, Jackson described Kucinich as "assuming the burden of saying 'you make the most sense, but you can't win.'"
Jackson has taken a key role in the scandal caused by comedic actor Michael Richards' racially charged comments in November 2006. Richards called Jackson a few days after the incident to apologize, to which Jackson accepted Richards' apology  and met with him publicly as a means of resolving the situation. Despite this, however, Jackson called for a ban on purchase of the newly released Season 7 DVD of Seinfeld, a TV show in which Richards starred. Many spectators considered this action both deceptive and irrelevant to the situation. Jackson also joined black leaders in a call for the elimination of the "N-word" throughout the entertainment industry. 
On June 23rd, 2007 Jackson was arrested in connection with a crowd protesting at a gun store in a poor suburb of Chicago, IL. Jackson was protesting the fact that the gun store (allegedly) had been selling firearms to local gang members and was contributing to the decay of the community. According to police reports, Jackson refused to stop blocking the front entrance of the store and let customers pass. He was charged with one count of criminal trespass to property. 
Jackson has been criticized for some of the remarks he has made about Jews and Jewish issues: that Nixon was less attentive to poverty in the U.S. because "four out of five [of Nixon's top advisors] are German Jews and their priorities are on Europe and Asia"; that he was "sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust"; that there are "very few Jewish reporters that have the capacity to be objective about Arab affairs";
Remarks about Jews
In 2001, it was revealed that Jackson (married since 1962) had an affair with a staffer Karin Stanford that resulted in the birth of their daughter, Ashley. According to CNN, in August of 1999, The Rainbow Push Coalition had paid Stanford $15,000 in moving expenses and $21,000 in payment for contracting work.
Wife: Jacqueline Lavinia (Brown) Jackson (m. 1962)
- Son: Jesse Jackson, Jr. (b. March 11, 1965)
Son: Yusef DuBois Jackson
Son: Jonathan Jackson
Daughter: Santita Jackson
Daughter: Jacqueline Lavinia Jackson, Jr.
Daughter: Ashley (b. May 1999) (with Karin Stanford) See also
David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, T.R.M. Howard: Pragmatism over Strict Integrationist Ideology in the Mississippi Delta, 1942-1954 in Glenn Feldman, ed., Before Brown: Civil Rights and White Backlash in the Modern South (2004 book), 68-95.
David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito. T.R.M. Howard M.D.: A Mississippi Doctor in Chicago Civil Rights, A.M.E. Church Review (July-September 2001), 50-59.