Jonathan Jackson (activist)

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Jonathan Jackson
Jonathan Jackson.JPG
Born Jonathan Luther Jackson
(1966-01-07) January 7, 1966 (age 52)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Nationality American
Known for Professor, businessman, social justice advocate
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Marilyn Richards
Children Jonathan T. Jackson, Leah Jackson, Noah Jackson
Parent(s) Jesse Jackson, Jacqueline Lavinia Jackson
Relatives Santita Jackson (sister), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (brother)

Jonathan Luther Jackson (born January 7, 1966) is an American business professor, entrepreneur and social justice advocate. He is the national spokesman for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and a partner in a Chicago-based beer distributorship, River North Sales and Service, LLC.

Early life[edit]

Jackson was born Jonathan Luther Jackson in Chicago, Illinois, to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a noted civil rights activist and Baptist minister, and Jacqueline Lavinia Jackson. His godfather was the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., from whom Jackson gets his middle name. The middle child of his parents' five children, Jackson's siblings are Santita Jackson and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., his elders, and Yusef, Jacqueline Jackson and Ashley, his younger siblings.[1]


Jackson attended Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago, where he was a student-athlete.

He attended his parents' alma mater, North Carolina A & T University in Greensboro, North Carolina, to study business.[2][3] He is a graduate of the Kellogg Graduate School of Business at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.[4]


Jackson married Marilyn Ann Richards of Brooklyn in 1995. Jonathan and Marilyn Jackson's children include Jonathan T. Jackson, Leah Jackson, and Noah Jackson.[5]

Civil and human rights activism[edit]

Jonathan Jackson outside Jon Burge indictment
The Jacksons visit Gandhi's grave.

Born into a family steeped in human rights activism, Jackson has traveled the world as an aide de camp to his father.[6] He traveled to Syria in 1983, when the Rev. Jackson negotiated with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad to release captured American pilot Navy Lt. Robert Goodman.[7] He met Fidel Castro in 1984, when his father negotiated the release of twenty-two Americans being held in Cuba.[8] He was also with his father in August 2005, when the Rev. Jackson traveled to Venezuela to meet Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.[9] This followed controversial remarks by televangelist Pat Robertson where he implied Chávez should be assassinated. Jackson condemned Robertson's remarks as immoral.[9]

In 2007, Jonathan Jackson took on the issues of innocence and juvenile justice as national spokesman for the RainbowPUSH Coalition.[10] Jackson has highlighted the personal stories and continued trials of those who accused the Chicago Police Department of torturing them to obtain confessions that landed them in prison. They include Darrell Cannon,[11] who faced the death penalty for a 1983 drug-related murder. Cannon was released after accepting a January 2001 deal to abandon his torture claim in exchange for being released, according to the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions. Jackson has also showcased the travails of the Rev. Oscar Walden, who in 1952 became Illinois's first exoneree. Walden was freed after being sentenced to 75 years for a rape he did not commit.[12]

Jackson has championed the cause of Johnnie Lee Savory,[13] a Peoria native who was convicted of stabbing to death his friends, Connie Cooper, 19, and her brother, James Robinson, 14, in their Peoria home in 1977. After serving over 28 years in prison, Savory was released on parole December 19, 2006. Jackson is among several notables who have petitioned the Illinois governor — first Rod Blagojevich, then Pat Quinn — to order DNA testing in the Savory case to prove that not only did Savory not kill his friends, but also to pinpoint the person widely suspected of committing the crime.[14]

In 2008, he turned his attention to closures of Chicago Public Schools.[15] He has led several schools to public hearings and civic education training to thwart school closures and turnarounds by private companies in favor of investing in existing schools and keeping a community's institutional memory intact — especially in highly mobile neighborhoods where large numbers of students are homeless or living on the economic margins.[16] In February 2010, he succeeded in helping Guggenheim Elementary School get off the closure list.[17] Guggenheim is situated in the Englewood community on the city's South Side. Jackson, among others, made the case that forcing students to walk any further to school put them in harm's way. They also made the case that Guggenheim's test scores have steadily improved and it had a close-knit community that possessed the momentum to achieve further gains. Previously, Jackson had persuaded school officials to abandon plans to close Holmes Elementary School, in addition to others.[15]

Jackson's view of outsourcing public education mirrors that of an emerging vocal group of educators like New York University's Diane Ravitch[18] and activists who assert that over-reliance on test scores and privatizing of public schools through wholesale charters and outsourcing allows schools to cherry-pick their student bodies while siphoning resources from the most marginalized children. They consider programs like No Child Left Behind and charter schools as a divestment of public education.[19]


Jonathan Jackson, far right, API forum panelist

Jackson started his career in 1988 at Drexel Burnham Lambert as an investment analyst for Michael Milken, an American financier and philanthropist, noted for his role in developing a market for high-yield bonds known as junk bonds. Jackson later worked as an analyst at Independence Bank, was a Shatkin Arbor runner at the Chicago Board of Trade and developed real estate for East Lake Management in Chicago. He rejoined Milken at Knowledge Universe in the late 1990s and currently engages in investments in the wireless, real estate and distribution sectors.[4]

In 1998, Jackson, with his brother Yusef, became owner of a Chicago-based Anheuser-Busch Cos. distributorship — River North Sales and Service, LLC.[20] The deal was met with charges of skepticism and nepotism because Jackson's father had previously organized a boycott of the brewery's products in the early 1980s. The elder Jackson wanted the world's largest brewery to do more business in the African-American community.[21]

In 2009, Jackson lead a group of minority investors in a $250 million bid to take over ION Media Networks, the country's largest chain of independent TV stations.[22] Partnered with Cyrus Capital Partners, a New York investment firm, Jackson argued that second-lien lenders are treated as second-class citizens.[23]

He has taught finance and entrepreneurship at City Colleges of Chicago.[24]

Currently, Jackson is a business professor at Chicago State University.

On August 8, 2012, New York Post writer Tara Palmeri reported that an unnamed source close to the Jackson family claimed Jonathan Jackson was being primed to take his brother's place in Congress. In a follow-up to reports about Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. treatment at the Mayo Clinic for depression and gastrointestinal disorders, the Post said the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. was "laying the groundwork" for Jonathan to run in the November election if Jesse Jr. "is not up to running for re-election."

The elder Jackson, according to the Post, has denied laying the table for Jonathan. In addition to teaching a full load at Chicago State, Jonathan is a businessman who is currently focused on building his Cricket Wireless franchise operation.[25]

Jonathan Jackson, left in orange, during a cookout at his Cricket Wireless store on 55th St., Chicago


  1. ^ MORGANTHAU, TOM; SYLVESTER MONROE (1983-11-14). "What Makes Jesse Run". Newsweek. Newsweek. p. 50. 
  2. ^ White, John (2005-12-25). "Jonathan Jackson Weds Marilyn Ann Richards In Elaborate Ceremony". Jet magazine. Johnson Publishing Co. p. 59. 
  3. ^ "JESSE JACKSON'S 40 YEARS OF SERVICE". Jet magazine. Johnson Publishing Co. 2006-11-20. p. 38. 
  4. ^ a b "Son of Jesse Jackson resigned..." Orlando Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. 1989-06-01. Retrieved 2010-04-10. 
  5. ^ White, John (1995-12-25). "Jonathan Jackson weds Marilyn Ann Richards in elaborate ceremony". Jet magazine. Johnson Publishing Co. Retrieved 2010-04-10. 
  6. ^ Business Day, Business Day (2005-10-25). "South Africa; Jesse Jackson Gives Backing to SA's Aids Plans". Africa News. 
  7. ^ "Reconnaissance Flights Will Continues". United Press International. 1984-01-10. 
  8. ^ Davis, Lanny (2008-08-11). "Jesse Jackson's Post Racial Legacy". The Washington Times. The Washington Times. pp. A04. 
  9. ^ a b Pace, Gina (2005-08-29). "Venezuela Wants Pat Robertson May Ask U.S. To Extradite Him; Jesse Jackson Visiting Caracas". CBS News. CBS News. Retrieved 2010-04-10. 
  10. ^ "Jonathan Jackson at a RainbowPUSH Coalition Press Conference when Jon Burge is charged with perjury and obstruction in connection with a torture investigation." 22 October 2008,
  11. ^ "Darrell Cannon at Press Conference discussing Jon Burge, who was charged with perjury and obstruction in connection with a torture investigation." 22 October 2008,
  12. ^ "All Illinois Exonerations - Center on Wrongful Convictions". Retrieved 2010-04-10. 
  13. ^ Douglas, Deborah (2008-11-14). "Memo to gov: Why no justice for innocent?". Chicago Sun-Times. Sun-Times Media. p. 29. Retrieved 2010-04-10. 
  14. ^ "Johnnie Lee Savory, Center on Wrongful Convictions". Retrieved 2010-04-10. 
  15. ^ a b "Chicago Public Schools : CPS withdraws proposals for six schools". Archived from the original on 2009-03-03. Retrieved 2010-04-10. 
  16. ^ "Stark contrasts between 2008 and 2009 Board meetings on schools closings, turnarounds, phase outs, etc. - Substance News". Retrieved 2010-04-10. 
  17. ^ "Parents Concerned By Dangerous Walk To New School" Feb. 10, 2010, 10:34 p.m. Central, CBS Channel 2, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-02-23. Retrieved 2010-04-10. 
  18. ^ "Ravitch Offers Passionate Defense of America's Public School System - March 2, 2010 - The New York Sun". 2010-03-02. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  19. ^ Ravitch, Diane (2010-04-02). "A new agenda for school reform". Washington Post. Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-04-10. 
  20. ^ Staff reports, Johnson Publishing Co., "Yusef Jackson's Ownership Group Purchases Anheuser-Busch Chicago Distributorship". Jet magazine 1998-12-14
  21. ^ Flahery, Peter (2001-03-18). "Jesse came to do good and did well". The Baltimore Sun. The Baltimore Sun. 
  22. ^ "Deborah Douglas: Turning Down $250 Million Is Not a Smart Move for ION or Minority TV Audiences". 2009-12-08. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  23. ^ "Cyrus Capital Extends Offer for ION Networks". 2009-11-16. Retrieved 2010-04-10. [permanent dead link]
  24. ^ "Kennedy-King College one of the City Colleges of Chicago". Retrieved April 10, 2010. 
  25. ^ Palmeri, Tara (2012-08-08). "Jesse Jackson planning for youngest son to take over oldest son's seat in Congress". Retrieved 2012-08-09. 

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