The Rev. Al Sharpton has evolved from the fiery activist who gained prominence leading protest marches in the 1980s to an insider with a show on MSNBC and the ear of elected officials. Here are five things to know about Sharpton:
STARTED AS A CHILD PREACHER
The Brooklyn-born Sharpton was a child preacher who was ordained in the Pentecostal Church at age 10. He was rebaptized as a Baptist in 1994. He often serves as a guest preacher at various churches but does not lead a congregation.
CLOSE TIES TO JAMES BROWN
The teenage Sharpton met the Godfather of Soul in 1973 following the death of the singer's 16-year-old son, Teddy. Brown served as a mentor and second father to Sharpton, who often toured with Brown during his late teens and early 20s. Sharpton modeled his hairstyle on Brown's, and his former wife was a backup singer for the entertainer.
HOWARD BEACH AND BENSONHURST
Sharpton led protests over the 1986 death of Michael Griffith, a black man who was hit by a car after a mob of white youths chased him onto a highway in Howard Beach, Queens. He led marches again in 1989 when black teenager Yusuf Hawkins was shot to death after being taunted by white youths in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Suspects were convicted in both deaths and given lengthy prison sentences.
TAWANA BRAWLEY CASE
In 1987, Sharpton served as an adviser to Tawana Brawley, a 15-year-old girl from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., who alleged she had been raped by a group of white men who smeared her with feces and scrawled racial epithets on her body. A special state grand jury later determined that Brawley had fabricated her claims. One of the men identified as an attacker, former county prosecutor Steven Pagones, later won a $65,000 defamation judgment against Sharpton, who continues to maintain that "something wrong happened" to Brawley.
Sharpton was stabbed in the chest by Michael Riccardi while he was preparing to lead a protest through Bensonhurst in 1991. He was not seriously injured. Riccardi was convicted of first-degree assault and sentenced to five to 15 years in prison. He was released on parole in 2001.