Jesse Jackson to retire as head of Rainbow PUSH civil rights coalition

(Reuters) – U.S. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson is stepping down as head of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition he founded, according to remarks he made during a recent broadcast.

Jackson, 81, has been a leader of the U.S. civil rights movement since the 1960s. He fought for the rights of Black Americans and other minorities alongside his mentor, Martin Luther King, Jr., and was present when King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968.

In a weekly broadcast on Saturday, Jackson said he would “make a transition pretty soon,” reminding viewers that he had been active in the movement for 64 years, and said the new president would speak at the coalition’s annual convention this weekend.

The announcement of Jackson’s retirement from his leadership role follows several health afflictions in recent years.

Jackson announced in 2017 that he had Parkinson’s disease, an ailment that constrains movement and gets progressively worse with time. In 2021, he was hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19, and again after falling and hitting his head.

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a merger between “People United to Save Humanity,” a group Jackson founded in 1971 to continue King’s work, and a coalition he formed after his first unsuccessful run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984.

Jackson ran again in 1988, winning several primaries and garnering momentum from Black voters and white liberals, but ultimately failed to become the first Black presidential nominee from a major party.

(Reporting by Julia Harte; Editing by Edmund Klamann)