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Jesse Jackson: The Most Important Figure in Blacks’ Economic History


Week of July 12, 2018

Black Press Business/Economic Feature by William Reed


Who has had economic impact across black communities similar to Jesse Jackson?  At their 191st, convention celebration the Black Press of America presented a “Lifetime Legacy Award” to Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson warts and all.

Jesse Jackson is one of the most influential African-Americans of the late 20th century.  Over the past 50 years, Jackson has played a pivotal role in Black Americans’ equality, empowerment, equality and economic and social justice.  He rose to prominence working within Martin Luther King Jr’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As he evolved, foundered People United to Save Humanity (PUSH), the organization he founded in 1971, Jackson pressed for broader employment opportunities for African-Americans.

Black publishers see Jesse is one of the most important figures in American Blacks’ economic history.  Beyond his forays in national politics, Jessie has made the most Blacks millionaires.    Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. (born October 8, 1941) has gained world-wide acclaim as a civil rights activist, Baptist minister and politician as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988.  He served 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 business people themselves, Black Press publishers honored Jackson for motivating Blacks in all aspects of business and sustaining those operations.  Today’s Black Press are prominent African American business people that communicate the views of the social, political and economic issues that commonly confronted them and their respective communities.  Race is the most potent force in American politics, and no one has navigated it and manipulated it for longer, and with greater stature.  His complicated history reveals one whose influence is perhaps further reaching and more implicative of our nation than any other since its beginnings.

No matter the notoriety, Jackson has helped Blacks fashion an economic movement and advancement on Wall Street, with covenants, franchises and distributorships.  Jackson honed his activist skills while attending 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. Under Jackson’, a key goal was to encourage massive boycotts by Black consumers as a means to pressure White-owned businesses to hire Blacks and to purchase goods and services from Black-owned firms. Operation Breadbasket held popular weekly workshops on Chicago’s South Side featuring political and economic leaders and religious services.

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.  An aggressive Black newspaper during the period, the Chicago Whip published fiery editorials endorsing the campaign.

While many label him an “opportunist,” Jesse 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.

Chicago Crusader publisher Dorothy Leavell said Jackson has “carried MLK’s legacy well” Jackson has a net worth estimated at  $10 million, He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.   In late 2017, it was  announced that he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via

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