*Jackson Creek Middle School*
*American Hero: Jesse Jackson*
Jesse Jackson was born October 8, 1941. He was born around 9:00 A.M. and he weighed 7 pounds and 4 ounces. Jesse's mother, Helen Burns had Jesse while she was in high school at the age of 16. It was a very hard time for her. Many people turned on her because she was pregnant at such a young age and had a baby with out being married. Helen was known to be one of the prettiest girls in Greenville, South Carolin and to have the best voice at Sterling High School. Five singing colleges were offering Helen a place at their colleges while she was still only in high school. Helen's mother, Matilda, had gone through the same thing and was not very willing to help out Helen. She was very angry and told her, "It's your own responsibility." Helen also lost a lot of respect from other family members, her classmates townspeople and her church. She was expelled from the congregation by worshippers at the Springfield Baptist Church. After she said that she sinned against her church they let her back in. With all this pressure and feeling like everyone was against her, Helen ran away with Jesse's dad to Chicago. When she got there, things were not too good, so she returned home to Greenville.
Two years after Jesse was born, Helen married Charles Jackson. Charles was not Jesse's biological father, but he was a hard worker and good at being a good example for Jesse. At the time they got married Charles was 24 years old and working at a postal office. They had only been together for a short time when Charles had to go to war. Everyone knew that Charles was not Jesse's father, but Helen did not want Jesse to know it. She would always show him pictures and things of Charles in his uniform to make Jesse think that Charles was his father. When Charles got home from war, he did the exact same thing Helen did, and tried to make Jesse think he was his dad. He didn't want Jesse to feel that he was different from everyone else. That didn't work too well. By the age of 6, neighborhood kids would follow him around calling him a nobody and telling him Charles was not his real father. Helen said that Jesse came home and would run into her arms in tears. Jesse found out that Charles was not his real father through his grandma and kids his age.
Noah Robinson was Jesse's real father. People said that Noah was the best known black man in Greenville when Jesse was born. Noah lived in a good neighborhood and worked at Ryan textile mill. Noah had another son, Noah Robinson Junior. By the age of 7, Noah, Jr. found out about Jesse being his half brother. While playing at the playground a lady and a few children called him over. They pointed out Jesse and told him that he was his half brother. That night, when Noah came home, his father explained everything. When Jesse was 10, Noah, Sr. wanted to visit Jesse while Jesse played at the playground. He would also frequently slip money to Helen for Jesse and on Christmas he sent her a basket full of goods. Noah's wife did not want to be reminded of Noah's affair with Helen. Jesse wanted to be with his dad, just as his dad wanted to be with him. Jesse would always go to their house and just look in and see if he could see his dad. When Noah Jr. would tell his dad Jesse was out there, he would go out and wave to him. Jesse would wave back, but then run away. Sadly, no one ever invited Jesse in. Later on Noah's and Jesse's families worked things out and Jesse was allowed in his biological father's house regularly. Charles was behind Jesse through everything. In 1957, when Jesse was 16, Charles legally adopted him. Jesse had truly grown to love the man.
Jesse was both an all around athlete and a good student. When he was a senior, he was a National Junior Honor Society Student. Jesse was a great athlete. He played quarterback for his school, Sterling High School. Because of segregation, Blacks were not allowed to do many things, such as going out to certain restaurants, use public drinking fountains and bathrooms. Jesse and other blacks would joke about it. Jesse would say that the reason the black and white football teams would not play against each other was because the whites were scared the blacks would beat them since the blacks were better. That was probably true, especially with Jesse as the quarterback.
Whenever the white and black kids played ball against each other (before the cops came and made them leave), Jesse would always do better then Dickie Dietz, a white high school football player from Greenville. Even though that was the truth, the newspaper would always say Dickie Dietz beat him. One night at a football game, Jesse played really well and scored three touchdowns. At the another game that same night, Dietz kicked the extra point to make a win. In the newspaper the next day, the newspaper headlined what Dietz did. The newspaper showed what Jesse did at the bottom of the page. In 1959, another unfair event happened. Big baseball scouts arrived at Greenville and were having a tryout camp. Jesse was the pitcher. He struck out almost the entire team. The scouts wanted Dietz to come up. It was Jesse against Dickie. Jesse struck out the batter three times and Dietz only hit the ball once. Everyone was amazed. A scout for the San Fransico Giants offered Jesse a contract for $6,000 to play B level in minor league. The Giants offered Dickie a $95,000 for A level. Jesse did not take it. It was not a fair game or offer.
In 1959, Jesse got a football scholarship to the University of Illinois. He thought he would be calling the shots like in high school, but that did not happen. Blacks were only allowed to play running backs, linemen and ends positions. Jesse expected more playing opportunities because of how well known he was in high school. He was also treated poorly as a newcomer, which was odd because of his good academic record. Another thing that set him off was there was a dance in the fall and the black fraternities were not invited. Jesse left Illinois after his freshmen year. In 1960, he enrolled at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. He was the quarterback and was again calling the shots. He was an honor student, and second vice-grand basileus of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Jesse was quite a well known man on campus.
Like in high school, all the girls loved Jesse. Jacqueline Lavinia Davis was the girl Jesse wanted. At first she didn't care too much for him. She thought he was too full of himself and would not take anyone else's opinions. She changed her mind and later on they started seeing each other. Jacqueline was the oldest of five children. She was born in Florida in 1944. She never met her father. She was very close to her mother who worked very hard for little money in order to support her family. She wanted to be a nun, but decided to go to A & T to study psychology and sociology.
Jacqueline had never had a boyfriend before Jesse. They got married in 1962 at a quiet wedding in Greenville. On July 16, 1963, they had a baby girl, Sanita. Jacqueline had to drop out of college to support the family. Along with Sanita, the Jacksons had four other children. There were three boys, Jesse Louis (1965), Jonathon Luther (1966), and Yusef Dubois (1970), and finally a baby girl, Jacqueline Lavinia (1975).
In 1963, Jesse became the leader of student activisim at A & T. He lead marchers into restaurants and public building that did not let blacks in. On June 6, 1963 Jesse and many others went to jail for demonstrating to end segregation. While he was growing up, Maltilda, Jesse's grandma who he called Aunt Tibby, told Jesse he was going to be a somebody. Jesse did just that. At the age of 5, Jesse said he wanted to be a preacher. After graduating from A & T, Jesse turned down a scholarship from Duke University Law School to go to Chicago Theological Seminary because he wanted to study ministry. In 1964, he moved to Chicago with his family to study ministry. Six months before his graduation, he dropped out of school and went to Selma, Alabama, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was leading the fight for Blacks to vote.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a very important man and still is to this day. King founded the South Christian Leadership Conference. He and his organization made a non-violent revolution against segregation. He did this in the American South. Along with that he also led the Montgomery Boycott of 1955. Even though King was such a great leader and the reason Jesse came to Alabama, Jesse and King did not get a long. Jesse would always speak up and really wanted to get his way. They had their ups and their downs. One time, King got very angry and told Jesse to leave. Jesse begged for him to let him stay.
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed. Right before that, King had invited Jesse to dinner, which could have given them a fresh start. After King's death, Jesse went on and continued to make a difference.
By: Angie M.
Last updated: 12/3/01