“With the exception of Native Americans, African Americans are the people who are most behind socially and economically in the United States and our needs are not moderate. A people far behind cannot catch up choosing the most moderate path. The most progressive social and economic path gives us the best chance to catch up and Senator Bernie Sanders represents the most progressive path. That’s why I choose to endorse him today,” Jackson said in a statement.
“The Biden campaign has not reached out to me or asked for my support,” he added. “The Sanders campaign has, and they responded to the issues I raised.”
The Sanders campaign said Jackson plans to speak alongside the senator at an event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Sunday. The state will hold its Democratic primary on Tuesday – a key state for both former Vice President Joe Biden and the Vermont senator.
Jackson, a longtime civil rights leader and clergyman, launched campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1983 and 1987. He won Michigan during his presidential bid in 1988 when it was still a caucus.
In an interview Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” Sanders said he’s “proud” of the endorsement, and lauded Jackson as “one of the great civil rights leaders in our country.”
“What Rev. Jackson understands is that we have to move aggressively to wipe out all forms of racism in this country and we need an economic agenda that speaks to the needs of working people, not just the billionaire class,” he said. “I think with Rev. Jackson – I think we got a real boost in our campaign.”
Jackson said the Sanders campaign made a series of commitments to him, including the senator pushing for a right to vote constitutional amendment in Congress, supporting a wealth tax and allocating $50 billion to historically black colleges and universities. He also said Sanders committed to nominating an African American woman to the Supreme Court and endorsing a two-state solution in the Middle East.
Additionally, Jackson also cited Sanders’ support for a single-payer health care plan as a key factor for his endorsement.
The relationship between Sanders and Jackson dates back to 1988 when then-Burlington Mayor Bernie Sanders endorsed Jesse Jackson for president at the Burlington Democratic presidential caucus.
Sanders, in a five minute speech at the time, praised Jackson as “a candidate for president who has done more than any other candidate in living memory to bring together the disenfranchised,” “a candidate who is creating a historic coalition, of working people, of poor people, of women, of minorities, of students, of farmers, of peace advocates, of environmentalists” and “a man who has waged the most courageous and exciting political campaign in the modern history of our nation.”
Sanders still talks about his support for Jackson’s 1988 presidential bid on the campaign trail.
“I am proud to tell you that in 1988, a long time ago, I was one of the few white elected officials I was mayor of the city of Burlington who endorsed Jessie Jackson, who brought him to Vermont and we won Vermont for Jessie Jackson,” Sanders told the crowd late last month at the National Action Network ministers breakfast in North Charleston.
“I think Jesse Jackson has never gotten his full due,” Sanders said on The Nation podcast “Next Left” in November, calling Jackson “absolutely” an inspiration.
This story has been updated with Bernie Sanders’ reaction to the endorsement and additional background information.