Women’s History Month 2010

Jacqueline Jackson, wife of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, says she has had three defining moments in her life.

Jacqueline Jackson, wife of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, says she has had three defining moments in her life. One came in 2000 when she was arrested and subsequently spent 10 days in a Puerto Rican jail while protesting the effects of the U.S. Navy’s test dummy bombs on Vieques Island in the Caribbean nation. “I found out for myself that prisons do nothing to rehabilitate a person,” she told the Defender. Jackson, who turned 66 on March 17, had long been on the scene for social justice and equality, participating with her husband and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in marches and protests for civil rights. But Jackson projected her own voice in Vieques. Reports indicated that the dummy bombs posed health risks to the natives and the environment there. “Another defining moment in my life was when my husband had a child by another woman,” she said. “I never thought about leaving because I love my husband so much. What he did had nothing to do with me. It is between him and God.” In 1999, Jackson fathered a girl by a former Rainbow/PUSH employee. And as stressful as infidelity can be for a spouse, Jackson said that King’s murder was equally devastating and the third defining moment in her life. King was assassinated in 1968 at the now-famous Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Jackson’s husband was with King on that fateful day, when King was felled on the motel’s balcony by a lone gunman’s bullet. She was inspired at an early age by some of America’s astute Black women, such as gospel singer Albertina Walker, the late Johnson Publishing Company matriarch Eunice Johnson and founder of the famous Soul Queen restaurant on the South Side, Helen Anglin Jackson said she is still fighting to maintain a positive identity for women. “I see women as the most powerful individuals on the planet,” Jackson told the Defender. “Life begins with God and the woman. Women have power.” One cause that consumes a lot of her time these days is the Jackson Foundation where she serves as president. The family foundation was founded in 1987 and was inspired by her mom who went back to college at age 60 and earned a master’s degree in social work. The foundation awards money to colleges, such as North Carolina A&T and Hampton University in Virginia, who then select needy students to assist. The spirited Jackson lives by the motto “no regrets” and admits she would be a very lost woman if she were not Mrs. Jesse L. Jackson. The couple will celebrate 49 years of marriage on New Year’s Eve. “I absolutely love being Mrs. Jackson and I love my husband,” said Jackson, who blushes when speaking about him. “As Mrs. Jackson I have gotten to do everything I always wanted to do.” Deeply religious and very much in love are two things immediately recognizable about her. During her interview with the Defender, her husband stopped by to say hello and her eyes lit up as if they were meeting for the first time. She has no problem boasting that part of what she does is take care of him. “When my husband goes to bed he gets to lay down on ironed sheets and pillow cases with a splash of perfume on them,” Jackson said. “He gets to sit at the table and eat a full course meal catered to his appetite. These are the things I do for my man.” However, she explained that as the wife of an internationally known civil rights leader, there are a lot of expectations often placed on her by people. But rather than try to be every thing to everyone, Jackson said she stays true to herself and her beliefs and let’s her Christian faith guide her through life. During the 2008 presidential primary election Jackson found herself at odds with her husband and son, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-1st, when she did not endorse Barack Obama but, instead, Hillary Rodham Clinton. But Jackson said it is not uncommon for her to be at odds with them. However, differences of opinion don’t mean a break in her love and adoration for her family. “We fight all the time,” she said jokingly. “I am a very opinionated woman and we all are afforded different choices.” She decided to support Clinton over Obama because she felt Clinton had “an enormous amount of experience especially with health care.” Family means every thing to Jackson, who has seven grandchildren and five adult children: Santita, Jesse Jr., Jonathan, Yusef and Jacqueline. But the wife, mother and activist described herself as “progressively old fashioned.” For example, she does not believe in couples showing public affection. “Sex is private. Sex is fragile. What you do in your personal space is your business and should not be put on display for everyone to see,” she said She prefers to be called by her last name by those who do not know her because “that is how I was raised. When I was growing up you did not call an adult you did not know by their first name.” Born in Florida but raised in Virginia, Jackson said Chicago has always been her home and she loves living here with the people who make up the “city that works.” Her mom now lives in Washington, D.C. and her father, brother and sister are deceased. She and her husband have been members of Fellowship M.B. Church on the South Side since 1967, although she admits visiting other churches often.

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