By Todd Richmond & Kathleen Foody, Associated Press
The Rev. Jesse Jackson announced he will step down as president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Chicago-based civil rights group he founded more than 50 years ago.
Jackson, 81, announced his resignation during a quiet farewell speech at the organization’s annual convention July 14, where the group paid tribute to him with songs, kind words from other Black activists and politicians, and a video montage of Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns.
Jackson, who has dealt with several health problems in recent years and uses a wheelchair, capped the proceedings with muted remarks. Flanked by his daughter, Santita Jackson, and his son, U.S. Rep. Jonathan Jackson, the once-fiery orator spoke so softly it was difficult to hear him.
“I am somebody,” he said. “Green or yellow, brown, Black or white, we’re all perfect in God’s eyes. Everybody is somebody. Stop the violence. Save the children. Keep hope alive.”
The Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes, “a long-time student of Rev. Jackson and supporter” of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, will take over as the group’s leader, the coalition said in a statement. Haynes is the pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, according to the church’s website.
Jesse Jackson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease eight years ago. He suffered a host of health setbacks in 2021, beginning with gallbladder surgery, a COVID-19 infection that landed him in a physical therapy-focused facility and a fall at Howard University that caused a head injury.
Jackson has been a powerful advocate for civil rights and a strong voice in American politics for decades.
A protégé of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he broke with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1971 to form Operation PUSH, initially named People United to Save Humanity, on Chicago’s South Side. The organization was later renamed the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. The group’s mission ranges from promoting minority hiring in the corporate world to voter registration drives in communities of color.
Before Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Jackson had been the most successful Black presidential candidate. He won 13 primaries and caucuses in his push for the 1988 Democratic nomination, which went to Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.
Jackson said in his remarks that he plans to continue working on social justice issues.
“We’re resigning, we’re not retiring,” Jackson said.
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