Rev. Jesse Jackson to step down as head of Rainbow PUSH

ByLeah Hope, Tre Ward, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Saturday, July 15, 2023
Rev. Jesse Jackson stepping down as head of Rainbow PUSH
Reverend Jesse Jackson will step down as president of Rainbow PUSH, the Chicago-based civil rights organization he founded in 1971.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The longtime civil rights organization Rainbow PUSH is preparing for its annual convention and for an historic change in leadership.

Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. is stepping down. Jackson, 81, is expected to officially name his successor this weekend.

Jackson, who was by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s side before King was assassinated, is stepping down as president of the organization he founded in 1971. It later merged with his National Rainbow Coalition to form Rainbow PUSH.

"My husband said he's pivoting. I'm retiring," his wife Jacqueline Jackson joked.

"I think Jesse Jackson broke the mold in terms of his kind of a leaders. You're never going to see another civil rights leader at this level ever again," said ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington.

Father Michael Pfleger with St. Sabina Church also weighed in.

"I think Jesse Jackson's impact not only in the city, but I think nationally, has been under-appreciated. I mean, Jackson's been out there early on. I mean, he's one of the few connecting the dots from the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s for Dr. King," Pfleger said.

Jackson has been a voice on civil rights matters locally, nationally and internationally for well over half a century.

The first African American to run for president shared his diagnosis with Parkinson's six years ago. Jackson twice ran for president in 1984 and 1988.

Many who worked with him on those campaigns came out at the start of the coalition's annual five day convention to show their support and honor the man who paved the way for the next generation of civil rights workers.

"He brought together a rainbow of supporters to try and make America," said former national field director Eddie Wong.

"You can see it in his eyes. He wants to be involved. The mind is willing, but the body is weak," said Jackson's Delmarie Cobb, who was Jackson's press secretary in 1988. "It's about quality of life and quantity of life, and you want to have both and make the hard decision. I'm sure this is a very hard decision for him."

Jackson and his family declined to comment on the record on Friday, but ABC7 expects to hear more at the convention this weekend.

A Rainbow PUSH spokesperson said in a statement, "Reverend Jesse Jackson is officially pivoting from his role as president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition. His commitment is unwavering, and he will elevate his life's work in teaching ministers how to fight for social justice. Rev. Jackson's global impact and civil rights career will be celebrated this weekend at the 57th annual Rainbow PUSH Coalition convention, where his successor will be named and introduced."