Chicago Theological Seminary Launches Rev. Jackson Oral History Project

In 1965, Rev. Jesse Jackson launched Operation Breadbasket (which later became Operation PUSH), a movement to help formally organize Chicago ministers to promote more employment opportunities for local Black individuals. Jackson was a student at Chicago Theological Seminary during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, and his time here at CTS shaped his career. He and his wife Jacqueline both spoke of the value of a CTS education in their early formation.
Through a generous grant from the Donnelley Foundation, CTS recently completed collecting an oral history of Rev. Jackson’s civil rights work in Chicago as a way to preserve the stories of the Civil Rights Movement in Chicago. Told by the people who lived and worked in the movement, these interviews are a window into a past that informs our present. Interviewed by Rev. Brian E. Smith and Kim Schultz, the subjects include Rev. David Wallace, former Chicago branch secretary for Operation Breadbasket; Rev. Janette C. Wilson, Advisor to Rev. Jesse Jackson and Director of PUSH Excel; Rev. Martin Deppe, who worked with Operation Breadbasket; Hermene Hartman, founder of N’DIGO Studio and publications; Betty Massoni, wife of late Chicago activist Rev. Gary Massoni; and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
“The Jackson Oral History Project has been an unprecedented opportunity to capture stories from key figures in the Chicago Civil Rights Movement,” said Rev. Smith. “The archive documents in vivid detail the birth of this movement, showing how CTS acted as an incubator for the movement’s early leaders, including Rev. Jackson himself.”
The archive, which consists of video and audio of and photos from the interviews, will be hosted online through CTS. In addition, an online exhibition featuring the stories and archives is being planned for spring 2024 in partnership with the Chicago History Museum, allowing the public full access to these important stories. The full Jackson Oral History Project will be launched at a celebration at the Chicago History Museum on Thursday, Feb. 8. Registration can be found here. Tickets are free, but registration is necessary.
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