Jesse Jackson, the Congressional Black Caucus & Other Black Leaders

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  • 0:01 Aftermath of Assassinations
  • 0:43 Jesse Jackson
  • 2:15 Congressional Black Caucus
  • 3:22 Radical Leadership
  • 4:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Following the assassinations of MLK and Malcolm X, there was a real question as to who would lead the African American community. This lesson details three of the different individuals and groups who tried to lead the movement for civil rights.

Aftermath of Assassinations

The 1960s were a time of great social change, with the passage of landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But this time period also presented great social hardship for the African American community. That decade saw many of its greatest champions, from leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and fierce advocates, like Robert Kennedy, gunned down in violent assassinations. As the country entered the 1970s it was clear that a new generation of African American leaders would be necessary in order to continue the work that MLK and others had begun during the 1950s and 1960s.

Jesse Jackson

The most prominent of this new group of leaders was a young man from Greenville, South Carolina who had already made a name for himself, Jesse Jackson. Jackson was a product of segregated life, but had gravitated towards the Civil Rights Movement even in high school. He soon found a home under the wing of Martin Luther King, Jr., working as a community organizer.

By 1968, he was a top functionary in the Civil Rights Movement. However, on April 4, 1968 the movement changed forever when King was gunned down while standing on the balcony of his Memphis, Tennessee hotel room. Immediately, Jackson gained considerable accolades for being one of a handful of black leaders preaching reconciliation.

Needless to say, this attracted a great deal of media attention to Jackson, which he used to push beyond campaigning for racial rights, instead concentrating on greater social issues like social mobility and social safety nets. Principle among the groups he established were Operation PUSH, or the 'People United to Save Humanity', and Rainbow Coalition, a group of people from different races committed to social justice. These groups later merged.

Also, Jackson began to play a larger role in national and international politics, negotiating for the release of hostages in Cuba, Syria, and Iraq. His stance as a political outsider away from the traditional centers of power in the United States helped improve his stance when negotiating with these foreign powers.

Congressional Black Caucus

Even though Jackson would eventually serve as the 'shadow senator' of the District of Columbia in an attempt to bring greater voting rights to the city, as well as have a son serve as a congressman and run for president, he never ran for Congress. Instead, another group of African American leaders would emerge to guide the country to greater integration. Much of that leadership would come from the Congressional Black Caucus. Begun in 1969 as an informal group of black congressmen, the group became a formal organization in 1971.

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