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Reverend Al Sharpton        

African-American Preacher & Activist; Foremost Civil Rights Leader; Radio Host on SiriusXM Urban View

Rev. Al Sharpton is one of America’s most-renowned civil rights leaders. Sharpton’s strong commitment to equality and progressive politics has had an irrefutable impact on national politics, evidenced by his noteworthy Presidential run as a U.S. Democratic candidate in 2004 and his compelling speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts.

Throughout his career, Sharpton challenged the American political establishment to include all people in the dialogue, regardless of race, gender, class or beliefs. In February 2007, Sharpton was called “the most prominent civil rights activist in the nation” by the New York Daily News. Few political figures have been more visible during the last two decades than Sharpton, even catching the eye of Conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh, who said on his own radio program that “Sharpton has the best shot of anyone at becoming the Limbaugh of the Left.” Sharpton’s daily radio show, “Keeping it Real,” is broadcast in more than 40 U.S. markets:

Limbaugh is not the only one touting Sharpton’s oratory and political skills. Adam Nagourney, chief national political writer at The New York Times, called Sharpton “smart, articulate, and eloquent…. As anyone that has ever heard him talk from a pulpit can testify, Sharpton is a man with a heart and firm ideological beliefs…. He has a command of politics that rivals some of the great New York party bosses, and no less significant, he has an understanding of the way the press works that rivals more than a few city editors."


As a boy, Sharpton was shaped by his surrogate father, the late Godfather of Soul, James Brown, who taught him, “you can’t set your sights on nothing little…you got to go for the whole hog.” Sharpton has been doing just that ever since.

Born on October 3, 1954, in Brooklyn, New York, Sharpton began his ministry at the tender age of four, preaching his first sermon at Washington Temple Church of God & Christ in Brooklyn. Just five years later, the Washington Temple Church’s legendary Bishop F. D. Washington licensed Sharpton, his protégé, to be a Pentecostal minister,

Sharpton’s civil rights career began almost as early as his ministry. At 13, Revs. Jesse Jackson and William Jones appointed Sharpton youth director of New York’s SCLC Operation Breadbasket, an organization founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1971, at the age of 16, Sharpton founded the National Youth Movement, Inc., which organized young people around the country to push for increased voter registration, cultural awareness and job training programs. This same year, Sharpton acted as James Brown’s tour manager, where he met his surrogate father and his future wife, Kathy Jordan, a backup singer.

Upon the death of Bishop Washington in the late 1980s, Sharpton became a Baptist, and, in 1994, he was re-baptized by Rev. William Jones as a member of the Bethany Baptist Church. From 1994 to 1998, Sharpton also served as director of the Ministers Division for the National Rainbow Push Coalition under Rev. Jackson.

Sharpton was educated in New York City public schools and attended Brooklyn College. He was later presented with an honorary degree from A.P. Clay Bible College. Sharpton preaches throughout the United States and abroad on most Sundays and averages 80 formal sermons a year. Sharpton says his religious convictions are the basis for his life.

Rev. Al and Kathy Jordan Sharpton have two daughters, Dominique, and Ashley. Dominique is working with her father on his nationally syndicated radio program and pursuing a career in acting. Ashley is in college.


Whether it was in his own presidential run in 2004, or in his myriad of campaigns, lectures, protests, travels, conferences and sermons, Sharpton has long fought to change the status quo.

"How did King establish his leadership? By marching, by putting people in the streets. Tell me when in the history of the civil rights movement the goal wasn't to stir things up,” Sharpton told the Washington Post how he echoes Martin Luther King Jr.’s conciliatory civil rights tactics.


Early in his career, Sharpton set out to stoke the fire of the Civil Rights movement as the voice of the downtrodden, leading and participating in marches and protests to call the public and the press’ attention to racial injustice. Putting himself in the middle of hot-button racial issues in his neighborhood of Brooklyn, Sharpton’s influence as an authority and a conscience for justice soon spread across the nation and the world.

S harpton’s record speaks for itself. He first began to gain attention in 1971 by urging black children in Harlem to participate in the African celebration of Kwanza instead of traditional Christmas events through the National Youth Movement. Then in 1974, Sharpton organized a group of 500 to protest the police shooting and death of an African American teenager before City Hall, prompting a meeting with the New York City mayor, which Sharpton stormed into with a group of the community’s leaders.

In 1986, Sharpton led 1,200 demonstrators on a march through the Queens neighborhood of Howard Beach, following the death of an African-American man as a result of an attack from a mob of white men. The march and protest resulted in the appointment of a special prosecutor for the case and propelled Sharpton to national prominence. In 1989, Sharpton again took to the streets to lead several protests through Bensonhurst, a Brooklyn neighborhood, following the assault of three African American teenagers and the murder of 16-year-old Yusef Hawkins at the hands of 10 to 30 white teenagers. Before a protest of the 1991 acquittal of one of the mob’s leaders, Sharpton was stabbed by a Brooklyn resident and, once recovered from his wounds, asked the judge for leniency for his attacker.

In 1999, when a young, unarmed African immigrant was gunned down in his home by four New York City police officers, Sharpton led 1,200 people in a civil disobedience protest, resulting in his arrest. Following him to jail in this protest were former mayors, congressmen and religious and community leaders across racial, ethnic and political lines. In a fateful repeat of history seven years later, Sharpton organized hundreds of thousands to march down Fifth Avenue in New York City to shed light upon the slaying of a young man shot by police on the day he was to be married to his high school sweetheart.

Sharpton’s stance on behalf of the disenfranchised has taken him, in his own words, “from the streets to the suites.” In 1999, in a united voice with African American advertising agencies and marketing and media outlets, he launched the “Madison Avenue Initiative” (MAI) to ensure that those who do business with advertising outlets around the country deal even-handedly with agencies, media outlets and publications run by people of color. Sharpton’s work with the MAI has targeted major corporations, including PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive, Microsoft, and others, who have subsequently extended their advertising dollars to reach more African-American and Hispanic communities.

In 2007, Sharpton has led the charge against the prevalence of pejorative and racial slurs in the mainstream media and music industry. Motivated by the words of James Brown on his deathbed, urging him to “be more aggressive in cleaning up the music,” Sharpton has led a coalition to urge recording labels to ban offensive words from song lyrics.

Sharpton proved to be an invaluable leader of the successful efforts of a broad coalition of prominent public figures urging the removal of DJ Don Imus from the airwaves, after the “shock jock” referred to players on the Rutgers women’s college basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” Sharpton’s leadership in this matter was nearly universally praised, receiving the support from newspaper editorial boards across the country and presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.

International Sharpton’s campaigns against racial profiling and police brutality have reached audiences around the world, and he has worked on human rights issues in the Sudan, Israel, Europe and across Africa and the Middle East, where he has formed alliances with international peace activists. In the Sudan, Sharpton visited the slave camps in a country whose religious war has left thousands of women and children at the hands of terrorist groups. In his visit to Israel and Palestine, he met with both Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat, calling for peace between the warring nations. Sharpton also visited Cuba, meeting with President Fidel Castro, after meeting with Jamaican Prime Minister, P.J. Paterson in Montego Bay.

In 2001, in what may be his most significant international visit, Sharpton joined three elected Latino officials from New York to visit with hundreds of Puerto Rican citizens who had suffered physical and mental infirmities as a result of U.S. Naval bombing exercises that have gone on for more than 60 years. Sharpton and the “Vieques Four” then led a protest at the U.S. Naval Base in Puerto Rico where they were subsequently arrested, tried and sentenced to 40-90 days in prison, with Sharpton receiving the longest sentence of the four. In 2003, largely due to the “Vieques Four,” President George W. Bush ordered the Navy to end their bombing exercises.

Whether it was his run for President of the United States in 2004, Mayor of New York City in 1997 or Senator in 1992, “The Rev,” as he is affectionately called by his closest friends and supporters, has rejuvenated the Civil Rights movement while raising the bar for political participation for people of color. Given the names and reputations of those who mentored him, perhaps Sharpton was destined for greatness. The late New York congressman and minister, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, and another well known civil rights preacher, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. have all played vital roles in Rev. Sharpton’s life, helping him to emerge, according to TIME Magazine, as the most important Black leader in the city of New York.

Some would argue he is the most important Black leader in America.


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