Rev. Jesse Jackson Stepping Down as President of Rainbow PUSH

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is stepping down as president of the pioneering civil rights organization Rainbow PUSH, which he founded more than 50 years ago.

A successor has yet to be named. This announcement comes as the 57th annual Rainbow PUSH Coalition Convention is set to occur this weekend. A spokesperson said his successor would be named at the upcoming Rainbow Push Coalition’s Annual International Convention.

Operation PUSH: A Mission to Save Humanity

Rev. Jackson founded the pioneering Operation PUSH — People United to Save Humanity — back in 1971. PUSH is an organizational descendant of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation Breadbasket, founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Operation Push’s initial mission was to improve the economic conditions of Black communities across the United States.

Later, Rev. Jackson merged Operation PUSH with the National Rainbow Coalition, which he founded in 1984, to form Rainbow PUSH.

But before he launched his organization, he was a civil rights leader based in Chicago who aimed to form an organization with a legitimate and effective mission in the spirit of Operation Breadbasket.

A 1971 article in The Chicago Defender stated that Rev. Jackson’s plan for Operation PUSH was to serve as “a Marshall Plan for the Ghetto.” He wanted Operation PUSH to help improve the economic conditions of Black communities across the United States.

More pointedly, in that same article, he announced that his new organization would not only “picket, boycott, march and vote, but if necessary will engage in civil disobedience” to implement its program on behalf of the poor and oppressed.

“We will push anybody out of our way and be as non-violent as we can be, but we will do whatever’s necessary to obtain our goals,” he said, according to that Defender article.

Rev. Jackson raised $28,000 to launch Operation PUSH. Johnson Products Company founder George Johnson and singer Robert Flack made sizeable contributions to enable its founding.

Eventually, Operation PUSH would expand its focus to include social and political development. It created a platform dedicated to advocating for Black homeowners, workers and businesses.

Jackson’s Two Presidential Runs

Yet, Rev. Jackson sought to take his mission to the White House.

In November 1983, he announced his intention to run for President by entering the 1984 Democratic Party presidential primaries. Rev. Jackson became the first Black person since Shirley Chisholm to pursue the Presidential nomination through a major political party.

“I seek the Presidency to serve the nation at a level where I can help restore a moral tone, a redemptive spirit and a sensitivity to the poor and the dispossessed of this nation,” a then 42-year-old Rev. Jackson announced.

Most believed that he did not have a shot to win the presidency. That prophecy became fulfilled.

Rev. Jackson would finish third in the National Democratic Primary in 1984, behind Former Vice President Walter Mondale and former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Gary Hart.

Nevertheless, he wildly surpassed expectations. He garnered an overwhelming number of Black votes, winning South Carolina, Louisiana, and Washington DC and splitting Mississippi. Ultimately, Rev. Jackson secured 3.5 million votes in the primary.

Those results cemented him as the first Black person to become a legitimate, serious contender for President, decades before Barack Obama’s initial run.

After his 1984 bid, Rev. Jackson formed the National Rainbow Coalition intending to pursue equal rights for all Americans.

He mounted his second Presidential campaign run in 1988 as a better-financed candidate and legitimate contender.

Rev. Jackson ultimately finished second to former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. But his second run was more successful than the first. By then, he had garnered 7 million votes and cemented himself as a legitimate political powerbroker.

The Legacy of Rev. Jackson and Rainbow PUSH

Jackson eventually returned to Chicago in 1996, overseeing the merger of Operation PUSH and the National Rainbow Coalition to form Rainbow PUSH.

Since then, Rev. Jackson has endured as a political influencer and institution with a global reach.

Though he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2017, he continues to serve as one of the nation’s foremost political voices.

The news of his pending retirement had generated national attention.

“The resignation of Rev. Jesse Jackson is the pivoting of one of the most productive, prophetic, and dominant figures in the struggle for social justice in American history,” Rev. Sharpton said, in part, in a statement.

Mayor Brandon Johnson, who cited Rev. Jackson as a mentor and friend, recognized the Greenville, South Carolina native’s contribution to Chicago and beyond.

“The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is an architect of the soul of Chicago. Through decades of service, he has led the Rainbow PUSH Coalition at the forefront of the struggle for civil rights and social justice. His faith, his perseverance, his love, and his relentless dedication to people inspire all of us to keep pushing for a better tomorrow.”

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