University of Rochester

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. to Speak at the University of Rochester

December 13, 2006

Long-time rights activist will present Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., a leading voice for civil rights for more than four decades, will deliver the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address at the University of Rochester. His talk, at 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26, in Strong Auditorium on the River Campus, is free and open to the public.

Known as a dynamic orator, Jackson has worked on human rights issues, gender equality, voter registration, and promoting peace and economic and social justice in both the national and international arenas throughout his career. His talk in Rochester is part of a larger week of programming titled "Linked Fate: 'Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere'," which will examine historic and contemporary civil rights struggles around the world. The programming topic is based on a quotation by King, with whom Jackson worked at the Southern Leadership Conference in the mid-1960s.

Jackson, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000, first became involved in the civil rights movement while a student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College. There, he joined the Council on Racial Equality (CORE) and, in 1963, organized marches and sit-ins against desegregation. He became a full-time organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1965 and was soon appointed director of its "Operation Breadbasket" program by King. Jackson founded Operation PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity) in 1971 and launched the National Rainbow Coalition, a national social justice organization, in 1984. The two organizations merged in 1996 and Jackson is president of the Rainbow/Push Coalition.

On the political scene, Jackson served as a delegate to the Young Democrats National Convention in 1964. He sought the Democratic nomination for president in 1984 and 1988, becoming the first African American to contend seriously for that office and inspiring three million new voters to register during his two campaigns. In 1990, he was elected as a nonvoting member of the Senate from the District of Columbia.

Jackson is as famous across the globe as he is within the United States, often operating as an international diplomat. In 1984, he helped secure the release of a captured Navy lieutenant from Syria and the release of 48 Cuban and Cuban-American prisoners in Cuba. In 1999, he negotiated the freedom of U.S. soldiers held in Yugoslavia. Most recently, he traveled to the Middle East to try to launch negotiations for the release of two Israeli soldiers whose kidnapping sparked a month-long war earlier this year.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address is sponsored by the College Diversity Roundtable and the Office of the President. For more information, contact (585) 275-0651.