It was the winter of 1967, and Jesse Jackson was completing his master’s degree at Chicago Theological Seminary. The young Baptist minister had left his native North Carolina to attend a northern United Church of Christ school, in part, he recalls, so that he could concentrate on his studies away from his civil rights activities.
But Jackson’s passion for civil rights traveled with him. One of his field projects at CTS was to create a grass-roots organization of African-American clergy, Operation Breadbasket, which eventually evolved into Operation PUSH. Jackson and CTS president Howard Schomer traveled to Selma, Alabama, to march with Martin Luther King Jr. King was so impressed with the student activist that he asked him to stay. “You will learn more from working with me in six months then in six years at seminary,” King told Jackson, who signed on with King and never returned to finish his degree.