Civil rights leader. Born Jesse Louis Jackson on October 8, 1941, in Greenville, South Carolina, a city beset with the problems of racial segregation. From birth, Jackson faced his own personal brand of discrimination. As a young girl his mother, Helen Burns, became pregnant by her married next-door neighbor, Noah Robinson. Her son, Jesse, was shunned and taunted by his neighbors and school classmates for being "a nobody who had no daddy." Instead of letting this adversity defeat him, Jackson developed his exceptional drive and empathy for the oppressed. His mother eventually married and became a successful hairdresser while his stepfather, a postal employee, adopted Jackson in 1957. With helpful advice from his maternal grandmother and his own desire to succeed, Jackson overcame his numerous childhood insecurities, finishing 10th in his high school class, even though he was actively involved in sports. His academic and athletic background earned Jackson a football scholarship at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Jackson, eager to get away from the Southern racial climate, traveled north only to find both open and covert discrimination at the university and in other parts of the city. After several semesters Jackson decided to leave the University of Illinois, return to the South, and attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (A&T) in Greensboro, an institution for African-American students. Jackson again proved himself an able scholar and athlete. When his popularity on the campus led to his victory as student body president, Jackson did not take the responsibility lightly. As a college senior, he became a civil rights leader. Although he was not in Greensboro when the four African-American freshman from A&T staged their famous Woolworth's sit-in in February 1960—the action which launched sit-down demonstrations throughout the South—Jackson actively encouraged his fellow students to continue their protests against racial injustice by staging repeated demonstrations and boycotts. Much of the open discrimination in the South fell before the onslaught of these student demonstrations. Civil Rights Movement
In the mid-1960s, Jackson began working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights organization founded by Martin Luther King Jr. In 1966, Jackson helped found the Chicago branch of Operation Breadbasket, as the economic arm of the SCLC was known.
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Jesse Jackson biography
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