Friday, February 29, 2008

Black TV Milestones: Jesse Jackson

Syria Releases Hostage to Jesse Jackson. In 1983, Jackson accomplished what Pres. Reagan could not—secure the release of Lt. Robert Goodman who had been shot down over Lebanon and was being held by the Syrian government. Reagan spoke disparagingly about Jackson and his trip to Syria, calling it “grandstanding.” Reagan also refused to accept Jackson’s telephone calls before Jackson left for Syria because Reagan had “initial misgivings” about attempts to free Goodman. On January 3, 1983 Reagan had to watch from the sidelines back in the U.S. as Jackson emerged from Syria with Goodman. Jackson met with Syrian Pres. Hafez al-Assad who said that he was moved by Jackson’s “human appeal.” The stakes were high as Goodman had endured beatings and interrogations by his captors. Reagan, Goodman, and Jackson would appear at the White House for a celebratory photo-op. Reagan conceded, “you can’t quarrel with success.” Jackson went on to repeat this feat of freeing hostages several times. In 1984, Jackson secured the release of 22 Americans being held in Cuba. Cuban Pres. Fidel Castro would only negotiate with Jackson for their release. In 1991, he secured the release of 500 “international guests” held in Iraq. In 1999, Jackson was again successful when he traveled to Belgrade to meet with Yugoslavia Pres. Slobodan Milosevic to secure the release of three U.S. POWs.

(Image: Pres. Reagan, Lt. Goodman, and Rev. Jackson. Photo by Darryl Heikes, U.S. News and World Reports)

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