In the small, black-and-white divided town of Greenville, a young Jesse Jackson learned early what segregation looked like. In school Jackson was a good student and an exceptional athlete. He was elected class president and in the fall of 1959 attended the University of Illinois on a football scholarship. In 1964, Jackson graduated from college with a degree in sociology. The next year he went to Selma, Alabama, to march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., eventually becoming a worker in King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
In 1984 Jackson established the National Rainbow Coalition, whose mission was to establish equal rights for African-Americans, women and homosexuals. In 1984 Jesse Jackson became the second African-American to make a national run for the U.S. presidency. He has continued to push for African-American rights and has been a featured speaker at Democratic conventions. There is no denying Jackson's impact on American politics and civil rights. In 2000 President Clinton awarded Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom.