Jonathan L. Jackson
Jonathan L. Jackson is an accomplished businessman, educator, and human rights leader whose advocacy and business savvy has taken him around the world, including Mauritania, Libya, Senegal, South Africa, Qatar, Great Britain, and many of the Caribbean islands, including Haiti.
As a sought-after speaker and thought-leader, Jackson recently traveled to Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India, to speak on the legacy of Mohandas Gandhi on the occasion of his 150th birthday commemoration. Jackson also journeyed to Austria to present at the State of the World & Global Peace Forum. Stateside, Jackson has been on the front lines of uprisings against police brutality. In the wake of the May 25, 2020 killing of George Floyd, he spoke at rallies on the ground in Minneapolis. He went to Louisville, Kentucky, on what would have been the 27th birthday of Breonna Taylor: A first responder, Taylor was killed in her home shortly after midnight March 13, 2020 by police entering the wrong residence.
Jackson’s advocacy has led to meeting heads of state throughout the world, including Venezuela President Hugo Chavez during the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe of 2005 and Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
He has been a faithful aide de camp to this father, legendary civil and human rights icon the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson. In 1983, Jackson traveled to Syria with his father, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, to secure the successful, and ultimately, widely hailed, release of a captured American pilot, Navy Lt. Robert Goodman, who was being held by the Syrian government. In June 1984, Jonathan Jackson, once again flanked his father, as the elder Jackson negotiated the release of 22 Americans being held in Cuba after an invitation by Cuban President Fidel Castro. And on the eve of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Jackson traveled with the Reverend to meet with Iraq President Saddam Hussein to negotiate the release of foreign nationals being held as a “human shield.”
As a dedicated husband and family man, Jackson’s commitment is limitless. With his siblings, Jonathan Jackson campaigned for this father’s presidential bids in 1984 and 1988. His dedication extends to his service as national spokesman for the RainbowPUSH Coalition. Jackson contributes his intellect and resources to America’s ongoing struggle for social, economic, and educational justice: He has dedicated his efforts to free the wrongfully convicted, seek justice for domestic torture victims, and ensure economic and educational access for all. Jackson has played a critical role in seeing that these men and women are restored to the rights and privileges of full citizenship.
His work has raised the profiles of innocents, such as Johnnie Lee Savory, Tabitha Pollock, and Barney Brown — people who were wrongfully convicted — and continues to pursue the full restoration of their good names. In 2017, after years of lobbying, amplification, and thought leadership, Savory was pardoned by the State of Illinois.
In addition to speaking eloquently on behalf of police torture victims and demanding legal remedies, he has personally counseled and ministered to the needs of these (mostly) men who emerge from prison with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
In 2009-10, Jackson successfully fought the closure of 16 Chicago Public Schools, causing the district to reverse plans that would destabilize communities. During public hearings, he emphasized how these closures would jeopardize the institutional memory and family networks of neighborhood schools in favor of impersonal and untested charter school replacements.
While the fight for social justice chose Jonathan Jackson, it can be said he chose business as a young man. Growing up, he was always impressed by the leadership ability and business savvy of individuals he was honored to meet through his father’s social justice and human rights agenda. Jackson started his career in 1988 at Drexel Burnham Lambert as an investment analyst for Michael Milken, an American financier and philanthropist. 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, distribution, and outsourcing sectors.
Notably, in 2009, Jackson led 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. Partnered with Cyrus Capital Partners, a New York investment firm, Jackson argued that second-lien lenders are treated as second-class citizens.
Educated at North Carolina A&T University and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Jackson has also taught business at the City Colleges of Chicago and Chicago State University. He has been a fixture of Saturday morning RainbowPUSH TV shows and cable TVs worldwide “UpFront With Jesse Jackson.” Jackson is a regular contributor to radio shows that have included “The Cliff Kelley Show” on WVON 1690 in Chicago. He has served as a member of the International Institute for Education and a past member of the Democratic Governors Association.