Event—Adult Education

Keep on Pushing: Jesse Jackson and the Transformation of Chicago and the Democratic Party


Explore of one of the most exciting, important, and underrated stories of American politics in the twentieth century.

Portrait of Jesse Jackson, Warren K. Leffler, 1983. Source: Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.

Class Description

As the founder of Operation PUSH in Chicago, Jesse Jackson led a movement to challenge the economic apartheid of the city and beyond, tackling systemic discrimination to secure thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in ancillary benefits for Black and Latino/a/x workers and entrepreneurs.

He then entered politics, supporting the election of Harold Washington, and finally running for president. His presidential campaigns remade the demography and ideology of the Democratic Party, laying the foundation for Barack Obama's eventual victory in 2008. We will also look at why Obama moved to Chicago to begin his political work, and the work he did while here.

From Harold Washington to Jesse Jackson to Barack Obama, the course will examine how the activation of Black politics and economics in Chicago transformed the country.

David Masciotra is the author of six books, including I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters and Exurbia Now: The Battleground of American Democracy. A journalist, political analyst, and arts critic, he has written for many national publications and teaches at Indiana University Northwest.

Materials List

Order from the Newberry Bookshop here!


  • David Masciotra, I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters. IB Tauris, 2020. ISBN: 978-1350400542
  • Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Crown, 2004. ISBN: 978-1400082773
  • Other Instructor-Distributed Materials

First Reading

  • Read pages 1 to 46 in I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters before the first meeting.

Cost and Registration

6 Sessions, $245 ($220 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member.

We now offer our classes at three different price options: Regular ($245), Community Supported ($230), and Sponsor ($260). Following the models of other institutions, we want to ensure that our classes are accessible to a wider audience while continuing to support our instructors. You may choose the price that best fits your situation when registering through Learning Stream.

To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.


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