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Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson awarded honorary degree

ByTom Wrench

Sep 3, 2015

Civil rights campaigner the Reverend Jesse Jackson has been awarded an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh.

The degree of Doctor Honoris Causa was conferred upon Mr Jackson on 22 August by Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Edinburgh, Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, during a ceremony at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where Jackson was speaking about his work and the issue of human understanding.

The event, held in association with the University’s Global Justice Academy, was part of the Book Festival’s ‘Human Rights Now’ series. Mr Jackson’s degree was awarded in recognition of decades of campaigning for civil rights in the USA.

After receiving his degree, Mr Jackson said, “I am humbled and honoured and feel inspired to keep working, after all it is the work and the days when the cameras are not around that the sacrifice is made for our struggle to make humanity more secure that has enabled us to be here tonight, so I thank the university for recognising our work.

“[Universities] must inspire young people to become their full selves as they mature.

“I am hopeful for the future because there are some victories that we have achieved, and we’re not going to give up. We’re not going to turn back.

“We’re going to keep fighting for the right to vote. We will keep fighting for affordable health. We’re going to keep fighting for coalition. We’re going to keep rejecting racism and violence […] We will journey on, and we will prevail.”

Professor Christine Bell, Assistant Principal Global Justice at the University of Edinburgh, said, “The Reverend Jesse Jackson has played a key role in promoting global justice.

“It is a great privilege to present Jesse Jackson with one of our highest honours, a doctorate of the University.”

The Reverend Jesse Jackson rose to prominence in the 1960s whilst working alongside fellow Baptist minister and civil rights activist, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. He participated in the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 and was given a prominent role by Dr King in his Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

In 1971, Mr Jackson formed the civil rights group, People United to Save Humanity (later People United to Serve Humanity), and, in 1984, went on to establish the ‘Rainbow Coalition’. In 1984 and 1988, he unsuccessfully sought to become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee.

More recently, Jackson has worked in international diplomacy, negotiating with figures such as Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein.

In 2000, US President, Bill Clinton, awarded Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honour bestowed on civilians, in recognition of his lifetime’s work.

Other honorary graduates of the University of Edinburgh this summer include historian and writer, William Dalrymple (Doctor of Letters), the managing director of the management consultancy firm, McKinsey & Co, Dominic Barton (Doctor of Science in Social Science), and former First Minister of Scotland, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Doctor Honoris Causa).


Photo Credit: Eric Bridiers, US Mission Geneva

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