Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Jesse Jackson became one of the most influential, eloquent, and widely known African American political leaders in the United States during the decades after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jesse Louis Jackson was born on October 8, 1941, in a six-room house in the textile-mill town of Greenville, South Carolina. His mother, Helen Burns, was a student at Greenville’s Sterling High School when she became pregnant with Jesse. His father, Noah Robinson, was married to another woman; the Robinsons lived next door to the Burns family. Two years after Jesse’s birth, on October 2, 1943, his mother married Charles Henry Jackson, who bestowed his last name on the boy and formally adopted him in 1957.
The young Jesse Jackson apparently learned the circumstances of his birth sometime during elementary school. Other children who had heard rumors of the small-town scandal taunted him. When Jesse was nine, Noah Robinson began seeing the boy standing in the Robinsons’ backyard, peering through a window. The hardships and insecurities did not, however, discourage Jesse. At any early age, he became a high achiever, determined to prove his own worth.
When he was nine, Jesse, whose mother and stepfather were devout Baptists, won election to the National Sunday School Convention in Charlotte, South Carolina. By the time he reached high school, his teachers knew him as a...
(The entire section is 2041 words.)
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