The Reverend Jesse Jackson steps down as leader of the civil rights group he founded in 1971.

CHICAGO — ( — The Rev. Jesse Jackson announced Saturday that he will step down as president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Chicago 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, where the band paid tribute to him with songs, kind words from other black activists and politicians, and video montages of Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns.

Jackson, who has dealt with a number of health issues in recent years and uses a wheelchair, ended the hearing with a low-key remark. Accompanied by his daughter, Santita Jackson, and son, US Rep. Jonathan Jackson, the once-fiery orator spoke so quietly it was hard to hear him.

“I am someone,” he said. “Green or yellow, brown, black or white, we are all perfect in the eyes of God. Everyone is somebody. Stop violence. Save the children. Keep hope.”

Rev. Frederick Douglas Haynes, “a longtime student of Rev. Jackson and a supporter” of the Rainbow PUSH coalition, will lead the group, the coalition said in a statement. Haynes is the pastor of Friendship-West Baptist. Church in Dallas, according to the church’s website.

Jesse Jackson has been battling Parkinson’s disease for the past eight years. He has had a host of health issues in 2021, from gallbladder surgery, a COVID-19 infection that landed him in a physical therapy facility, and a fall at Howard University that resulted in a head injury.

Jackson has been an influential civil rights advocate and a strong voice in American politics for decades.

A protégé of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., he broke with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1971 to form Operation PUSH, originally called People United to Save Humanity, in Chicago’s South Side. The organization was later renamed the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. The group’s mission ranges from promoting the recruitment of minorities in the corporate world to voter registration in communities of color.

Jackson was a driving force behind the modern civil rights movement, championing the right to vote and education. Among other things, he joined George Floyd’s family at a memorial to a murdered black man and participated in COVID-19 vaccination campaigns to allay black doubts about drugs.

Before Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Jackson was the most successful black presidential candidate. He won 13 primaries and caucuses to secure the 1988 Democratic nomination that went to Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

In his speech, Jackson said he plans to continue working on social justice issues, including defending the interests of three survivors of the 1921 Tulsa massacre, who this week saw a judge dismiss their claim for damages.

“We’re retiring, we’re not retiring,” Jackson said.

Ron Daniels, who works with the National Commission for African American Injuries, a commission that deals with financial payments to blacks in compensation for slavery, told Congress that Jackson is a “synthesis” of King and another 1960s civil rights leader, Malcolm X. .

“He’s a real genius,” said Daniel. “(Jackson) had an unparalleled ability to formulate and articulate … political strategy in a way that ordinary people could understand.”

Marcia Fudge, secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, thanked Jackson for paving the way for black politicians like herself.

“Most people talk about a good game, but they don’t have the guts,” she said. “But you never left us, no matter how hard it was.”

Santita Jackson implored the convention attendees to follow her father’s example and continue to fight for equality.

“Reverend. Jackson hurt his leg,” she said. “What are you going to do?”


Richmond reported from Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press reporter Gary Fields of Washington contributed to this report.


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