African Americans in Chicago
Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rainbow/PUSH
In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assignment of one of his brightest lieutenants to Chicago introduced Chicago to a personality and program that has weathered the test of time and prospective successes. Initially begun as Operation Breadbasket, an economic effort by SCLC to extend its civil rights agenda into the economic mainstream, under Jackson's dynamic leadership between 1965 and 1971, the organization gained successes in opening the city's market to accommodate black-produced products and expand employment opportunities. By 1971, Jackson felt the need to expand the organization's local focus and limited agenda to engage in more pressing problems facing African Americans, so Jackson resigned from Operation Breadbasket after clashing with Rev. Ralph Abernathy, founding Operation PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity) in its place.
Subsequently, Jackson founded the National Rainbow Coalition in 1984 which merged with PUSH in 1996, forming as a non-profit organization from the merger of the two non-profit organizations founded by Rev. Jackson. The organizations that originally grew to pursue social justice, civil rights and political activism expanded again with a greater emphasis on political empowerment and effecting public policy issues. The merged entity advocates for African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, other minorities, and women. Its main economic goal is to have more minorities on the payrolls, in the boardrooms, and on the supplier lists of major corporations. The industries it most aggressively pursues are the financial sector on Wall Street, the telecommunications field and high-tech firms in Silicon Valley. The Wall Street activities are organized under sub-organization "The Wall Street Project."
In the meantime, Rev. Jackson launched two successive, yet unsuccessful, presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988 that served ultimately as icebreakers for future African American candidates who sought the nation's highest office. With a populist style and message, along with his personal charisma, Jackson attracted voters of all backgrounds to his cause. Jackson then moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C. to serve as the district's "shadow senator" from 1991 to 1996. When he returned to Chicago in 1996 he resumed control over Rainbow/PUSH which keeps its national headquarters on the South Side of Chicago on South Drexel Boulevard at 50th Street (pictured above).