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Rev. Jesse Jackson to step down as head of civil rights organization Rainbow PUSH


It has been announced that civil rights leader and two-time presidential candidate, Rev. Jesse Jackson, plans to step down from leading the Chicago civil rights organization, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Jackson, who will turn 82 in October, has remained active in civil rights despite a number of health setbacks in recent years.

A spokesperson from the congressional office of his son, U.S. Rep. Jonathan Jackson, D-Ill., confirmed that the long-time civil rights leader would be retiring from the organization. 

Rep. Jackson said Friday there “is a determination made that in his current health and condition that he has appointed a successor and will formally announce it Sunday.”

In 2017, Jackson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Johnathan, a former Rainbow PUSH Coalition director, said “it is progressive” and that his father often uses a wheelchair.

Jackson’s public activism began decades ago, as one of the “Greenville Eight,” a group of Black students (Jackson was a college freshman at North Carolina A&T) protesting at the whites-only public library in his hometown. 

A foot soldier for the Rev Martin Luther King, Jr., he was active throughout the civil rights movement and went on to form Operation PUSH in 1971. He ran for president twice and successfully negotiated the release of U.S. citizens being held hostage abroad. 

Jackson also helped lead a 1983 voter registration drive that ultimately resulted in the election of Harold Washington as Chicago’s first Black mayor. The Rainbow Coalition, which grew out of his 1984 presidential campaign, merged with PUSH in 1996.

The Rainbow PUSH coalition released a statement that Jackson, 81, will remain connected to the organization. “His commitment is unwavering, and he will elevate his life’s work by teaching ministers how to fight for social justice and continue the freedom movement. Rev. Jackson’s global impact and civil rights career will be celebrated this weekend at the 57th annual Rainbow PUSH Coalition convention, where his successor will be introduced.”

The organization is holding its national convention and says an official announcement will come at the Rainbow PUSH Sunday session at the Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave. The convention will include a tribute to Jackson to mark the 35th anniversary of his first Democratic presidential primary bid in 1988.

In speaking about his father stepping down, Jonathan said he “has forever been on the scene of justice and has never stopped fighting for civil rights. That, he said, will be “his mark upon history.”


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