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.
Rainbow/PUSH is a non-profit organization formed as a merger of two non-profit organizations founded by Jesse Jackson — Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) and the National Rainbow Coalition. The organizations pursue social justice, civil rights and political activism.
In December 1971, Jackson resigned from Operation Breadbasket after clashing with Rev. Ralph Abernathy and founded Operation PUSH. Jackson founded the National Rainbow Coalition in 1984 which merged with PUSH in 1996. The combined organization keeps its national headquarters on the South Side of Chicago and has branches in Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, the Silicon Valley, and New Orleans.
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 bloc. The merged entity has undertaken numerous social initiatives.
Operation PUSH, an acronym for People United to Save (later Serve) Humanity, was an organization which advocated black self-help and achieved a broad audience for its liberal stances on issues of social justice and civil rights.
The origins of Operation PUSH can be traced to a factional split in Operation Breadbasket, an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. 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.
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." 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.
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.
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, and awards through which Jackson protected black homeowners, workers, and businesses, and honored prominent blacks in the U.S. and abroad. The organization was concerned with minority youth reading, 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. The program, which persuaded inner city youth to pledge in writing to study two hours per night and which involves parental monitoring, 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.
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. The organization employed prayer vigils as a technique to call attention to issues. The organization opposed Ronald Reagan's workfare initiative to compel that welfare recipients work for part of their benefits.
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. 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. Nike spokesperson, Michael Jordan, disavowed the Nike boycott. 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.
National Rainbow Coalition 
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 to a "Rainbow Coalition", an idea created by Fred Hampton, of the disadvantaged and welcomed voters from a broad spectrum of races and creeds. The goals of the campaign were to demand social programs, voting rights, and affirmative action for all groups that had been neglected by Reaganomics. 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. At the 1984 Democratic National Convention on July 18, 1984 in San Francisco, California, Jackson delivered the Keynote address, entitled "The Rainbow Coalition". 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. 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.
Jackson moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C. to serve as shadow senator from 1991 to 1996. When he returned to Chicago in 1996 he merged his organizations. 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". The organization has been active in pursuit of increase minority representation in other industries, most notably the broadcast media, the entertainment industry, and the automobile industry. It has also sought increased representation by minority administrators in college and professional sports under the leadership of Jesse Jackson, Jr. For Hispanic issues the merged entity works closely with the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Council of La Raza.
In 1998 the organization admonished Freddie Mac for its lending and employment practices, which led to its pledge to earmark $1 billion in mortgage loans specifically for minorities, to donate more than $1 million directly to Rainbow/PUSH and to became a sponsor of Jackson's annual Wall Street Project. In 2000, the organization investigated the case of Raynard Johnson, who was found hanged by a belt from a tree in front of his home in Kokomo, Mississippi. Jackson labelled it a "lynching", although two autopsies both concluded that the death was a suicide. 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. This initiative was ended in 2003, after the racing sanctioning body was criticized by conservative groups for the partnership. 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 universal health care, a war on drugs, direct peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, ending apartheid in South Africa and advancing democracy in Haiti. The following is the organization's list of major issues:
- 1% Student Loans
- Jobs and Economic Empowerment
- Employee Rights and Livable Wages
- Educational Access
- Fair and Decent Housing
- Voter Registration and Civic Education
- Election Law Reform
- Fairness in the Media, Sports, and Criminal Justice System
- Political Empowerment
- Trade and Foreign Policy
- Affirmative Action and Equal Rights
- Gender Equality
- Environmental Justice
Former congressman Mel Reynolds, who served a sentence in prison for sexual assault and bank fraud, was hired by Rainbow/PUSH as its resident scholar on prison reform after his release in 2001. The organization is a member of several anti-war coalitions including Win Without War, United for Peace and Justice, and After Downing Street.
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