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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Jesse Jackson - seasoned negotiator
Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson has endured a series of recent scandals
Talk of a mission led by the Reverend Jesse Jackson to soothe tensions with the Taleban returned the prominent US civil rights leader to the limelight.

The veteran campaigner has endured a tricky period of bad publicity.

In January 2001, it was revealed that he had fathered a child with Karin Stanford, a former executive director of the Citizenship Education Fund.

Then came questions about the financial probity of Mr Jackson's other organisations.

Jesse Jackson and US soldier released from captivity in Kosovo 1999
Jesse Jackson successfully negotiated the release of US soldiers in Kosovo
With Republicans back in the White House, his role as President Clinton's envoy to Africa over, and damaging questions about his integrity being raised, Mr Jackson's star looked like it was beginning to fall.

Two years ago, he was on a high, having successfully secured the release of three US soldiers held as prisoners-of-war in Yugoslavia.

Surprisingly for a man so long at the forefront of American public life, Reverend Jackson, 59, has never held an elected position.

In 1984 he ran for the Democrats presidential nomination. Four years later he tried and failed again but the campaigns established him as the country's best-known African-American political leader.

Both campaigns made party colleagues pay more attention to civil rights and he was credited with increasing black voter turnout.

Powerful voice

Born in Greenville, South Carolina, he became active in the civil rights movement while at college and went on to join Martin Luther King Jr's Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Fretful, extravangantly troublesome, exhorting, chiding, restless, gospelteering outsider

Biographer Marshall Frady on Jesse Jackson
He was put in charge of SCLC's Operation Breadbasket - aimed at securing jobs for African Americans.

Throughout the 1970s Mr Jackson - a Baptist minister - became a powerful voice for civil rights, speaking out against drugs and for education.

By the late 1970s he was taking on international roles campaigning in South Africa against apartheid and arguing the case for a Palestinian state in Israel.

Back in the US, he launched The National Rainbow/Push Coalition, which presses for equal rights and seeks to generate private sector investment to help start businesses in poverty-stricken areas.

His biographer, Marshall Frady, described him as a "fretful, extravangantly troublesome, exhorting, chiding, restless, gospelteering outsider".

At the same time, Mr Frady said: "One can come across any number of chaps holding forth on street corners who imagine themselves prophets to their time, but what makes Jackson fascinating is that he has actually held the wherewithal for it."

Previous successes

In 1984, Mr Jackson secured the release of a captured US Navy officer, Lieutenant Robert Goodman, from Syria.

Jesse Jackson led demands for a revote in the presidential elections in Florida
Three years later, he travelled to Cuba and won freedom for 48 Cuban and Cuban-American prisoners.

In 1990, he was the first American to bring hostages out of Kuwait and Iraq.

Mr Jackson was named in October 1997 as a special US envoy to Africa, leading to further successes there and elsewhere, including the release of the three US soldiers in Yugoslavia.

In 2000 Mr Jackson took the lead in demanding a revote in Florida's Palm Beach county, saying the ballot paper in the presidential election was confusing and potentially unfair.

Although his demands were not met, his anger over the election remains.

He is the author of two books and a TV host. His son. Jesse Jr, is a Democratic Congressman for Illinois.

See also:

02 May 99 | Europe
US prisoners released
24 Mar 99 | Americas
Jackson rules out White House run
02 May 99 | Europe
The three US soldiers: A profile
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