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The Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks on a radio broadcast from the headquarters of Operation PUSH, at its annual convention, July 1973. Photograph by John H. White.
Formation 1971
Type Civil rights
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois
Official language
Jesse Jackson

Rainbow/PUSH is a non-profit organization formed as a merger of two social justice, civil rights and political activism.

In December 1971, Jackson resigned from Atlanta, the Silicon Valley, and New Orleans and Boston.

Operation PUSH was successful at raising public awareness to initiate corporate action and government sponsorship. The National Rainbow coalition became a prominent political organization that raised public awareness on numerous political issues and consolidated a large voting block. The merged entity has undertaken numerous social initiatives.


  • PUSH 1
  • National Rainbow Coalition 2
  • Merger 3
  • Involvement in the Duke Lacrosse team controversy 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Rainbow/PUSH Headquarters in the Kenwood community area of Chicago

Operation PUSH, an self-help and achieved a broad audience for its liberal stances on issues of social justice and civil rights.[1]

The origins of Operation PUSH can be traced to a factional split in Operation Breadbasket, an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.[2] In 1966, Martin Luther King Jr., the head of the SCLC, appointed Jackson to head the Chicago chapter of Operation Breadbasket, which became a coalition of black ministers and entrepreneurs.[3]

After 1968, however, Jackson increasingly clashed with King's successor at SCLC, Rev. Ralph Abernathy. The break became complete in December 1971 when Abernathy suspended Jackson for “administrative improprieties and repeated acts of violation of organizational policy.” Jackson resigned from Operation Breadbasket, called together his allies, and Operation PUSH was born.

From its inception, Jackson referred to its membership as a "Rainbow Coalition."[3] The name "Rainbow Coalition" was originated in 1968 by Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton to describe the multi-ethnic revolutionary federation he founded. Jackson was not part of the Hampton Rainbow Coalition, and had a difficult relationship with the Panthers. Some former members of Hampton's coalition are resentful of Jackson appropriating the name, partly because Jackson's politics are reformist, and partly because Jackson copyrighted the name, preventing others from using it.[4]

Although money was a problem at first, initial backing came from Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, Gary, Indiana Mayor Richard Hatcher, Aretha Franklin, Jim Brown, and Ossie Davis.[3]

Jesse Jackson speaks at 1973 PUSH National Convention

The organizational meeting of PUSH was in the Chicago home of Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a prominent black doctor and community leader on the South Side. Before he moved to Chicago in 1956, Howard had developed a national reputation as a Mississippi civil rights leader, surgeon, and entrepreneur. Howard served on PUSH's board of directors and chaired the finance committee.[5]

Through PUSH Jackson was able to continue pursuit of the same economic objectives that Operation Breadbasket had pursued. In addition, his new organization was able to expand into areas of social and political development for blacks in Chicago and across the nation. The 1970s saw various tactics to pursue the organization's objectives including direct action campaigns, weekly radio broadcasts,[6] and awards through which Jackson protected black homeowners, workers, and businesses, and honored prominent blacks in the U.S. and abroad. He also started a push campaign against the legalization of abortion after the Roe vs Wade decision in 1973. The organization was concerned with minority youth reading,[7] and it championed education through PUSH-Excel, a spin-off program that emphasized keeping inner-city youths in school while assisting them with job placement.[8] The program, which persuaded inner city youth to pledge in writing to study two hours per night and which involves parental monitoring,[9] impressed Jimmy Carter whose administration became a large sponsor after Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph Califano and Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall courted Jackson.[10][11]

Lake Shore Drive Senior Citizens March (July 1973)

The organization was very successful at committing major corporations with large presences in the black community to adopt affirmative action programs in which they hired more black executives and supervisors and to buy from black suppliers, wholesalers, and distributors.[10] The organization employed prayer Ronald Reagan's workfare initiative to compel that welfare recipients work for part of their benefits.[13]

The organization staged several boycotts including early 1980s boycotts of Anheuser Busch and Coca Cola as well as a 1986 boycott of CBS television affiliates.[14][15] The boycotts became so well known that at one point David Duke supporters referred to a boycott of Nike, Inc. as if whites were being oppressed by blacks.[16] Nike spokesperson, Michael Jordan, disavowed the Nike boycott.[17] The boycotts of Budweiser, and Coke as well as one against Kentucky Fried Chicken were touted for having won minority job concessions from white businesses.[18]

National Rainbow Coalition

Jesse Jackson was a Presidential candidate in both 1984 and 1988.

The National Rainbow Coalition (Rainbow Coalition for short) was a political organization that grew out of Jesse Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign. During the campaign, Jackson began speaking about a "Rainbow Coalition", an idea created by Fred Hampton, regarding the disadvantaged and welcomed voters from a broad spectrum of races and creeds.[10] The goals of the campaign were to demand social programs, voting rights, and affirmative action for all groups that had been neglected by Reaganomics.[8] Jackson's campaign blamed President Ronald Reagan's policies for reduction of government domestic spending, causing new unemployment and encouraging economic investment outside of the inner cities, while they discouraged the rebuilding of urban industry. The industrial layoffs caused by these policies hit the black and other minority populations particularly hard.[10] At the 1984 Democratic National Convention on July 18, 1984, in San Francisco, California, Jackson delivered an address entitled "The Rainbow Coalition".[19] The speech called for Arab Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, youth, disabled veterans, small farmers, lesbians and gays to join with African Americans and Jewish Americans for political purpose. Whereas the purpose of PUSH had been to fight for economic and educational opportunities, the Rainbow Coalition was created to address political empowerment and public policy issues.[20] After his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination in 1984, Jackson attempted to build a broad base of support among groups that "were hurt by Reagan administration policies" - racial minorities, the poor, small farmers, working mothers, the unemployed, some labor union members, gays, and lesbians.[10]


Jackson moved from Jesse Jackson, Jr.[22] For Hispanic issues the merged entity works closely with the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Council of La Raza.[20]

In 1998 the organization admonished Kokomo, Mississippi.[8] Jackson labelled it a "lynching", although two autopsies both concluded that the death was a suicide.[23] In the early 2000s (decade), Rainbow/PUSH worked with NASCAR to increase the number of minorities involved in auto racing, through direct financial support and projects to find talented African-American racing drivers.[24] This initiative was ended in 2003, after the racing sanctioning body was criticized by conservative groups for the partnership.[25] Among the smaller campaigns it has undertaken are the HIV/AIDS Initiative for funding for AIDS programs; the National Field Department support of "constructive agitation to bring about societal change"; and the Prison Outpost project, whose ultimate goal is "to eliminate the need for prisons."

Through his organization and its predecessors Jackson has advocated anti-war coalitions including Win Without War, United for Peace and Justice, and After Downing Street.

Involvement in the Duke Lacrosse team controversy

In 2006, Jesse Jackson promised the Rainbow/Push Coalition would pay the college tuition for Crystal Mangum. Mangum made false rape allegations against members of Duke University's men's lacrosse team who had hired her as a stripper. Jackson said it would not matter if Mangum fabricated her story; the tuition offer would still be good.[28]


  1. ^ "National Rainbow Coalition (American organization)". Encyclopædia Britannica online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 2007-09-05. 
  2. ^ Ralph, James (2005). "Operation PUSH". Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. Retrieved 2007-09-05. 
  3. ^ a b c "Jackson PUSHes On".  
  4. ^ Jakobi Williams, From the Bullet to the Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Racial Coaliton Politics in Chicago, (University of North Carolina Press, 2013), p. 198-204
  5. ^ David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 209-10.
  6. ^ "TV and radio broadcasts". RainbowPUSH Coalition website. Archived from the original on October 27, 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  7. ^ "Needed: Strong Soldiers".  
  8. ^ a b c d "Black History: Jesse Jackson". Gale Cengage Learning. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  9. ^ "The American Underclass (page 10)".  
  10. ^ a b c d e "Jesse Jackson". Encarta. Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  11. ^ Shapiro, Walter (1988-04-11). "Taking Jesse Seriously (page 9)".  
  12. ^ "A Fallout Between Friends".  
  13. ^ "Putting the Poor to Work".  
  14. ^ Thomas, Evan (1983-12-19). "Sniping".  
  15. ^ Kelly, James (1986-04-14). "When Push Gives a Shove".  
  16. ^ Wills, Garry (1990-10-01). "David Duke's Addictive Politics".  
  17. ^ Gray, Paul (1990-08-27). "Who's Boycotting Whom?".  
  18. ^ Thomas, Evan (1984-05-07). "Pride and Prejudice (Page 7)".  
  19. ^ "Top 100 Speeches". American Rhetoric. 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-05. 
  20. ^ a b c "Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Reaches Hispanics". Hispanic Business Inc. 2000-11-02. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  21. ^ "The Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson". WGBH educational foundation. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  22. ^ "Sports people: pro basketball; Survey Shows Lack of Jobs for Blacks".  
  23. ^ Burden of Proof: Hanging Death Mystery in Mississippi: Suicide or Murder?, CNN transcript, July 21, 2000
  24. ^ NASCAR is trying to change its image, Rupen Fofaria,, Feb. 12, 2002
  25. ^ NASCAR ends donations to Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH, Chris Jenkins, USA Today, July 28, 2003
  26. ^ "Jesse Jackson". Global Leaders. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  27. ^ Dodge, Susan (2001-01-29). "Reynolds finds work with S. Side church".  
  28. ^ "Jesse Jackson Says Organization Will Pay Alleged Rape Victim's Tuition". Retrieved January 7, 2007. 


  • David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito. T.R.M. Howard M.D.: A Mississippi Doctor in Chicago Civil Rights, A.M.E. Church Review (July–September 2001), 50-59.

External links

  • Rainbow/Push Coalition
  • [2]
  • Rosalinda Guillen and Joseph Moore Papers. 1982-2011. 20.54 cubic feet (19 boxes).
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