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Rev Jesse Jackson in Birmingham for anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech

Civil rights campaigner to speak at the new Library of Birmingham a day after the 50th anniversary of King's iconic speech.

Rev Jesse Jackson speaks at the Mount Zion Christian Centre, Aston, in 2008
Rev Jesse Jackson speaks at the Mount Zion Christian Centre, Aston, in 2008

American civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson will be in Birmingham to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

The US preacher is due to speak at the new Library Of Birmingham on September 4, a day after the £188 million facility is opened.

Rev Jackson, 71, is only visiting Birmingham and London during his UK visit and will be a guest of the city council and the Operation Black Vote organisation, which works to improve racial equality.

The visit was organised to mark five decades since King’s iconic speech, which he gave during the March On Washington political rally on August 28, 1963.

King was shot dead, aged just 39, in Memphis, Tennessee, five years later. His death led to riots in more than 100 US cities.

Martin Luther King pictured at Newcastle University in 1967
Martin Luther King pictured at Newcastle University in 1967
 

James Earl Ray was convicted of his murder and jailed for 99 years. He later retracted his confession and claimed he had been only a minor player in a conspiracy.  But he remained behind bars and died in prison in 1998.

Rev Jackson, who was a candidate for the Democrat Party's presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988, said: “The dream of equal rights and economic justice has transformed the USA and, of course, helped transform the UK and other parts of the world.

“Much progress has been made, but there is unfinished business and more remains to be done.

“My visit to Birmingham during this historic time will be to celebrate but also to prepare for action. That was Dr King’s way.”

Francine Fernandes, deputy director of Operation Black Vote, said: “As the second city, we feel Birmingham is the right place to take Rev Jackson.

“There have been dramatic improvements in black and minority ethnic (BME) political representation over the past 25 years but more still needs to be done. We have 27 BME MPs but there would need to be around 60 to be representative of the BME population.”

Rev Jackson’s invitation-only visit to Birmingham will trigger the start of Operation Black Vote’s largest-ever campaign in the run-up to the 2015 General Election.

Rev Jesse Jackson visited Birmingham in 2007 to give a talk at Symphony Hall, Birmingham.
Rev Jesse Jackson visited Birmingham in 2007 to give a talk at Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

It has just released a report claiming the BME electorate could decide more than a quarter of seats in the ballot.

Rev Jackson is no stranger to Birmingham and last visited in December, 2008, after Barack Obama was elected America’s first black president.

He addressed an enthusiastic congregation at Mount Zion Community Church in Aston, saying Birmingham’s economic struggles were not far removed from those in Birmingham, Alabama.

During his visit, he said: “When I think about Birmingham, UK today, it reminds me of Birmingham, Alabama. I think about what we went through but I knew that, even then, we had to keep hoping. We never gave up.”

 

 

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