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  • Jackson, Mahalia

    Known as The Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson was born in New Orleans in 1911 and moved to Chicago at an early age. She absorbed the sounds of blues singers Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, but it was the church to whom she pledged her allegiance. She began singing gospel in the 1920s at Chicago's Greater Salem Baptist Church and performing with the Prince Johnson Gospel Singers. By the late 1930s, she had begun recording as a solo artist, and in the early 1940s she toured with the great Thomas Dorsey. As illustrated by the song 'Move On Up a Little Higher,' Jackson's charismatic performing style influenced the young Aretha Franklin among many others. Jackson died of heart failure in 1972 at age sixty.
  • Jackson, Reverend Jesse L.

    Ordained Baptist minister, Reverend Jesse L. Jackson was born October 8, 1941. His work in civil rights began early in college when, as a campus leader at the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina in Greensboro, he spearheaded protests that forced the integration of the city’s restaurants and theaters. Following the assassination of his mentor Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jackson became a national figure by founding Operation PUSH, an organization working to improve the lives of African Americans. In the 1980s, Jackson continued to raise awareness of important political and social issues with projects such as the Rainbow Coalition and during his campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988. He also received international acclaim for his role in the release of hostages being held in Iraq and Bosnia.
  • Jamaica

    Independent Caribbean island nation and one of the largest islands in the Caribbean. Conquered by the British in 1655, it remained a British colony until 1962 when it achieved independence. The modern-day population of Jamaica is comprised mainly of the descendants of the African slaves who were forcibly brought to the island to work the fields. It is presently a parliamentary democracy. The official language is English but the local Patois is spoken more commonly. Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae music, one of the most important musical genres of the century, and also one of the most popular forms of music the world over.
  • Japan

    While retaining its time-honored culture, Japan rapidly absorbed Western technology during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After its defeat in World War II, Japan recovered to become an economic power and a staunch ally of the U.S. While the emperor retains his throne as a symbol of national unity, actual power rests in networks of powerful politicians, bureaucrats, and business executives. The economy experienced a major slowdown starting in the 1990s following three decades of unprecedented growth.
  • Jazz

    A form of music developed by African Americans during the early years of the 20th century, jazz is known as America’s classical music. A revolutionary departure from previous canons of musical arrangement and performance, the enigmatic compositions of jazz are characterized by improvisation, complex rhythms and harmonic exploration. The genre has evolved into a variety of complex styles, including the trumpet-heavy New Orleans style, mainstream orchestrations of big band swing, and the unpredictability of free jazz. Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis have been some of the most influential figures in jazz. It continues to maintain a strong influence on more contemporary types of music, from pop and rock 'n' roll to hip hop and rhythm and blues.
  • Jessye, Eva

    Born in 1895, Eva Jessye gained prominence as the foremost African American choral conductor of her era. Following studies at Western University in Quindaro, Kansas and at Langston University in Oklahoma, Eva Jessye became a teacher in the segregated Oklahoma school system. In 1926, she moved to New York where she worked as an amateur choir conductor for several gospel groups. Eva Jessye eventually attracted the attention of Broadway producers, and became the original conductor for George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and King Vidor’s Hallelujah!. Later, during the Civil Rights Movement, the Eva Jessye Choir was named the official choir for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington. Jessye died in 1992.
  • Jim Crow

    Named for an antebellum minstrel show character, Jim Crow laws were passed in the U.S. by southern state legislatures during the late 19th century. Statues based upon the principal of "separate but equal" created a legal caste system supporting white supremacist ideology. African Americans were subjected to poll taxes, literacy tests, segregated public facilities and other devices designed to disenfranchise the population. The structure of legal segregation was finally dismantled by civil rights legislation enacted during the 1960s.
  • Johnson Publishing Company

    Formerly the world’s largest African American-owned publishing company. John H. Johnson founded the company in 1942 with a publication called Negro Digest. It went on to publish both Ebony and Jet, two of the oldest and most popular African American magazines in the nation. Today, it continues to publish Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company is based in Chicago.
  • Johnson, James Weldon

    Lawyer, lyricist and social activist James Weldon Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1871. After graduating from Atlanta University, he returned to Jacksonville and worked as a principal at the segregated Stanton School. Johnson collaborated as a lyricist with his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, on some two hundred songs, including 'Lift Every Voice and Sing,' long considered to be the Black National Anthem. Under Theodore Roosevelt's administration, Johnson was appointed U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, Nicaragua and the Azores. Upon his return to the U.S., Johnson joined the NAACP and served in numerous capacities with the organization for almost fifteen years. He was one of the leading contributors to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s, publishing anthologies of African American poetry as well as his own works. Johnson also taught at Fisk University and New York University. He died in 1938.
  • Johnson, Lyndon B.

    The thirty-sixth president of the United States. In 1963, he ascended to the presidency from the vice presidency following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Johnson’s legacy in domestic affairs stands as one of the most influential of the century. After his re-election in 1964, Johnson engineered a package of legislation known as the Great Society programs, which included Head Start, civil rights legislation, affirmative action, and the War on Poverty. In foreign affairs, Johnson’s record is decidedly more controversial. His administration escalated U.S. involvement in Vietnam resulting in civil unrest and widespread protest at home. Facing harsh criticism from both the left and right, Johnson chose not to seek re-election in 1968. He died in 1973 at home on his Texas ranch.
  • Jones, Quincy

    Black musician, songwriter and entertainment mogul. In his distinguished career, Quincy Jones has produced studio albums, television shows and founded Vibe magazine. Jones has worked with nearly every major American recording artist of the last half-century including Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and Ray Charles. He has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards.
  • Joyner, Tom

    Host of The Tom Joyner Morning Show, the nationally syndicated morning radio broadcast on ABC. The show fuses news, sports, music and political activism. Joyner has won four Billboard magazine awards and was the first African American to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.