Rev. Jesse Jackson represents a continual presence between the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and present-day Black Lives Matter Movement -- and a reminder that not only was the push for equal rights not that long ago, but the fight is ongoing since the arrival of Black people in this country. He is a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, where he was president of the Student Government Association and the Aggies' quarterback -- but the multisport athlete rejected a minor league baseball contract before attending college. Man of Omega Psi Phi. The first Black man to run for president (Shirley Chisholm beat him for first overall). And a lifelong "drum major for justice," in the words of his friend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is a winner of the NAACP's Spingarn Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to him by former President Bill Clinton.
In 1960, while home for the summer from his freshman year at college, Rev. Jackson participated in a sit-in at the Greenville Public Library in protest of segregation as a member of the Greenville Eight. It marked his entry into the civil rights struggle -- and earned him his first arrest. After graduating from A&T, he joined Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference as head of Operation Breadbasket, the orgaization's job placement agency for Black people. In 1971, he launched Operation PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity) to apply political pressure on politicians to urge them to work harder to improve conditions for Black people.
In 1984 and again in 1988, Rev. Jackson sought the deomcratic nomination for president, behind the idea of a "Rainbow Coalition" that would unite all people of color to fight for equality together. Jackson continues to use political and monetary influence to push for equality. Though not formally affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, he been publicly supportive, calling it "a new name for an old process."
Young Students (K3-2nd Grade)
Rev. Jesse Jackson ran for president twice. Even though he didn't win, he continued believing in his ability to make a difference. Pretend you are running your own campaign for president. What are the things that are most important to you? What do you want to change about the world around you?
Middle Students (Grades 3-8)
Rev. Jackson once said, "No one should negotiate their dreams. Dreams should be free to fly high." What do you think he meant by "negotiate their dreams"? What dreams do you have for your life? Write them down, then make a promise to yourself to always let them fly.
High School Students (Grades 9-12)
No one can deny the dedication or commitment of Rev. Jackson to the cause of advancing equality for all marginalized people, but especially Black people, around the world. But one often-heard criticism -- levied by both Dr. King in the days of SCLC and modern leaders and activists -- is that Rev. Jackson's attention-seeking behavior sometimes distracts from the work to be done. Has there ever been a time in your life when you or someone you know let ego get ahead of the work, even if your heart was in the right place? In what ways could this be damaging to the overall goal you're trying to achieve?
Rev. Jackson said, "leadership must meet the moral challenge of the day" -- is your leadership in your classroom and in your school measuring up to the challenge of providing an anti-racist, culturally responsive education to all students in your classroom? How are you advocating for students and adults of color in your school?
About the Series
A Black Child Can was founded to create a better world for students by empowering the adults around them with the knowledge they need to advocate on their behalf. The 2022 blog series builds on this foundation, encouraging educators to participate in the discussion and reflect on the ways they're showing up for their students.