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[In My Lifetime] Rev. Jesse Jackson Remembers the First National Black Political Convention

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Rev. Jesse Jackson talks to newsmen at the opening of the National Black Political Convention March 11, 1972. Gary's Mayor Richard G. Hatcher, left, and Amiri Baraka look on. AP / Charles Knoblock

After the 1968 assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights movement had to decide which direction to take. Organizations like CORE and SNCC had moved in more militant directions and King aides like Andrew Young, Ralph Abernathy, Rev. Jesse Jackson and others were left with the task of redefining the movement now that their leader was dead.

In 1972, a group of revolutionaries, traditionalists, political figures, religious officials and many other social justice activists decided to come together, whatever their individual agendas were, for what would become the first National Black Political Convention on March 10-12 in Gary, Ind. As many as 8,000 people from 45 states were in attendance.

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Rev. Jesse Jackson at the National Black Political Convention in 1972. Gary’s Mayor Richard G. Hatcher, left, and Amiri Baraka look on. AP / Charles Knoblock

The platform initialized a National Black Political Agenda including election of national health insurance, control of schools by the local community, banning capital punishment and electing a more representative number of Black officials to congress — which ultimately led to the formation of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Rev. Jackson spoke with EBONY.com during a stop at New York’s WBLS and recalled what the atmosphere was like and why it was a crucial moment in Black History.

— As told to Madison J. Gray


Learn more about the 1972 National Black Political Convention on PBS’ Eyes on the Prize

Click here to read EBONY’s “In My Lifetime” series from 2016.

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