Rev. Jesse Jackson

By DaQuan Lawrence

Legendary civil rights activist Jesse Jackson Sr. has announced that he will step down as the leader of his Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition (RPC). On July 16, during the annual Rainbow PUSH Coalition convention, Frederick Douglass Haynes III, was introduced as the new President and CEO of Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Jackson founded the international human and civil rights organization in 1971, via a merger of Operation Push and the National Rainbow Coalition.

In a statement released by Rainbow PUSH, the organization declared that

“Reverend Jesse Jackson is officially pivoting from his role as president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition.”

The statement noted that Jackson’s impact in the fight for civil rights has circumvented the globe.

[Jackson is] one of the most productive, prophetic and dominant figures in the struggle for social justice in American history,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, president and founder of the National Action Network (NAN), and a mentee of Rev. Jackson.

Sharpton was a protégé of Jackson’s since the moment his mother brought him to the civil rights giant at 12 years old. At the time, Sharpton was to serve as the youth director for the New York chapter of Operation Breadbasket.

“When I spoke with him…I told him that we will continue to glean from him and learn from him and duplicate him in whatever our organizations and media platforms are,” Sharpton concluded.

Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, now leads as the new president and CEO of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. (Photo courtesy of Friendship-West Baptist Church)

RPC seeks to empower people through grassroots advocacy and forge connections between the community and the disenfranchised. 

Jackson, 81, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2017.

The leadership transfer between the historic human rights figure and Haynes took place at the Apostolic Church of God in Woodlawn, Md. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke during the event and celebrated Rev. Jackson for decades of service to the community.

“It is my joy to congratulate Reverend Dr. Freddy Haynes. I have known him and worked with him for over 20 years, including when we worked together in the early days of the criminal justice reform movement,” said Vice President Harris during her remarks.

Vice President Harris also articulated her confidence in Dr. Haynes as Jackson’s successor. 

“I am so confident in his leadership and his ability to carry on the greatest traditions of this organization and to meet the challenges of this moment,” she said.

Haynes is best known as a social justice pastor and advocate for marginalized communities. In addition to this new role as leader of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Haynes is the senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church, a megachurch in Dallas, Tx., with more than 13,000 members.

Known nationally as a “drum major for justice,” Haynes’ ministry is focused on the intersections of faith and justice, as he works diligently to stand up for justice and to create positive change.

“The work of Rainbow PUSH is as necessary as ever and I am committed to standing on the shoulders of Rev. Jackson and continuing the fight for freedom, peace, equity, justice and human rights,” said Haynes acknowledging Jackson for his foundational leadership of RPC.

According to the RPC’s archives, the organization was inspired by the antiracist and multicultural Rainbow Coalition movement founded in 1969 by José Jiménez, William Fesperman, and Fred Hampton. Historically, PUSH (People United to Save Humanity – later changed from “Save” to “Serve”) was an organization dedicated to improving the economic conditions of Black communities across the United States.

In the 1970s, PUSH expanded into areas of social and political development using direct action campaigns, a weekly radio broadcast, and awards that honored prominent blacks in the U.S. and abroad. The organization was instrumental during Jackson’s presidential runs in 1984 and 1988.

As Jackson’s successor, Haynes brings a wealth of experience with him to the helm of RPC, and he also serves as a teacher at several institutions of higher learning. He has received numerous awards and honors for his ministry and activism.

“The NAACP congratulates Reverend Frederick D. Haynes on his new role as the President and CEO of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition,”said Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO.” A man of faith, conviction, and intellect, we are confident that his decades of public service and leadership will carry this historic organization forward at a pivotal moment.”

“The NAACP is excited to continue working collaboratively with PUSH towards a brighter America. Congratulations, Reverend Haynes,” said Johnson.

In 2012, Ebony Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential African Americans, and he was also inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame. In 2016, Haynes was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, and in 2022, he was awarded the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Leadership Award in Community Service by President Biden.

“Rev. Jesse Jackson has made the world a better place, breaking down barriers, opening previously locked doors of opportunity, fighting for justice and refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer on behalf of those who have no voice,” said Haynes. “Rainbow PUSH has been the organizational vehicle that he has driven in the movement for justice. I am honored and humbled that he has ‘tapped’ me to serve as his successor.”