Who has had economic impact across Black communities like Jesse Jackson?
Jesse Jackson is one of the most influential African-Americans of the late 20th century. Over the past half-century, he has played a pivotal role in Black Americans’ equality, empowerment, equality and economic and social justice.
Jackson, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient who has a net worth estimated at $10 million, means something to everyone, and that something varies greatly from person to person.
Black publishers see Jesse as one of the most important figures in American Blacks’ economic history. Rising to prominence working within Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), he founded People United to Save Humanity (PUSH) in 1971, pressing for broader employment opportunities for African Americans.
Beyond his forays into national politics, Jackson has made the most Black millionaires. He has gained worldwide acclaim as a civil rights activist, Baptist minister and politician who was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988. He served on the national level as shadow U.S. senator for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997 in one of two special unpaid “statehood senator” posts to lobby the U.S. Congress.
Black Press publishers recently honored Jackson at the annual NNPA convention for motivating Blacks to engage in all aspects of business and sustaining in those operations. Jackson helped Blacks’ economic advancement on Wall Street, with covenants, franchises and distributorships honed his activist skills while attending Black college North Carolina A&T, where he became active in local civil rights protests against segregated libraries, theaters and restaurants. In 1966, King headed the Chicago SCLC’s economic arm, Operation Breadbasket Operation.
Influenced by the example of Philadelphia’s Rev. Leon Sullivan, Jackson utilized the bargaining power of African American church leaders and their congregations to foster “selective buying” (boycotts) to pressure White businesses to open up private sector jobs to Blacks. The boycott movement is traditionally linked to the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” protests, which based Black people’s right to work on their status as consumers.
While many label him as an opportunist, Jackson is a proven “tree shaker” and “jelly maker.” Like him, or not, Jackson has created thousands of job opportunities for Blacks and helped make hundreds more millionaires. Jackson reigns as the consummate Black advocate. His Rainbow PUSH Automotive Project works to achieve diversity and inclusion in the auto industry at all levels; from dealerships to suppliers to employees.
As Chicago Crusader Publisher Dorothy Leavell said, Jackson has “carried MLK’s legacy well.”
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.