Reverend Al Sharpton is founder and president of the National Action Network and National Director of the National Rainbow Coalition's Minister's Division.
He is one of America's foremost leaders for civil rights. For more than two decades, Sharpton has played a major role in virtually every significant move for civil liberty, community empowerment and economic equality. Sharpton formed NAN in 1991 to combat racial and civil rights violations, fights for progressive, people-based social
policies by providing extensive voter education and registration campaigns, economic support for small community businesses and confronting corporate racism.
Sharpton's efforts include the recent formation of the first-ever Invitational Summit on Multicultural Marketing and Media, which brought together more than 200 advertising, marketing and media leaders in New York City. The event provided a learning opportunity for executives to start strategic courses to grow brands and profits in a changing demographic environment.
Sharpton has joined forces with former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree to form "Second Chance," a program for non-violent felony offenders who have served their prison sentences. The recently formed project offers training, counseling and support for ex-convicts with non-violent records and is available to all without regard to race or gender.
Sharpton ran for political office in 1992, 1994 and 1997. His first campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate garnered him 70 percent of the state-wide black vote and helped three black legislators achieve victory. His 1997 run for New York City mayor came within one percent of forcing a Democratic primary run off.
Sharpton has served as consultant to the family of Amadou Diallo, the native from Guinea, West Africa, who was killed by four New York police officers as he entered his Bronx apartment building on February 4, 1999. He stayed in the forefront of the political movement to bring justice to the slain West African's family by mobilizing numerous rallies across the state of New York, including a march across the Brooklyn Bridge on April 15, 1999.
Throughout the 1980's and early 1990's, Sharpton led a series of direct-action campaigns and crusades to fight racism in the criminal justice system. In one of his first forays into the public arena, Sharpton founded the National Youth Movement in 1971. Under his 17-year leadership, the NYM registered thousands of young people to vote, won hundreds of job opportunities, led the fight to put the first black on the New York State Metropolitan Transit Authority Board, and also spearheaded the campaign that resulted in the first minority School Chancellor of the New York City Board of Education. During this time Sharpton also led the now famous marches against "crack" houses, exposing them to law enforcement agencies.
Born in 1954 in Brooklyn, New York, Sharpton was raised by his mother in the ghettos of Brooklyn. He began his ministry at the age of four when he preached his first sermon to hundreds at Washington Temple Church in Brooklyn. By the age of 9 Sharpton was licensed and ordained and appointed Junior Pastor of the 5,000-member Washington Temple congregation. At age 12, Sharpton became interested in politics, mesmerized by Harlem Congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
Sharpton's career is recounted in his 1996 autobiography, Go and Tell Pharaoh.
Sharpton is married to Kathy Jordan. They have two daughters and live in Brooklyn.