This article originally appeared in the August 12, 1977 issue of Christianity Today.

Jesse Louis Jackson is the founder and national president of PUSH (People United to Save Humanity). From 1967 to 1971 he served as a national director of Operation Breadbasket within the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He attended Chicago Theological Seminary after graduating from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and is an associate minister of Fellowship Baptist Church in Chicago. Now, at age thirty-five, he leads national PUSH campaigns for excellence in city schools and conducts crusades against sex and violence in the media. Glenn Arnold, associate professor of journalism at Wheaton Graduate School, conducted this interview.

Christianity Today: Do you recall spiritual experiences from your childhood?

Jesse Jackson: Well, of course, I remember that the environment was "join the church," but I was never pressured to do it. But when I made that decision—I was in the third grade—I could sense the delight in my parents. I remember crying as if some burden had lifted.

CT: What do you recall about your early church experience?

JJ: Sunday school, church attendance, and Baptist Training Union on Sunday afternoons were all part of our life-style then, to be sure. The first stage I ever spoke on was a pulpit during some Christmas or Easter pageant. The church for us was a social, cultural, spiritual matrix around which a lot of our life revolved, a place where we could express our talents, whether playing a piano or organ or singing, and gain acceptance, as it were, in the broader community.

CT: Is it true that you were a delegate to a Sunday School convention at age nine?

JJ: Yes. That became a great source of growing ...

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