Born in 1950 in Chicago's Altgeld Gardens, Phillip Jackson moved frequently as a child, attending 11 different Chicago public schools over the course of his 13 years in that system. After receiving a Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy, with honors, from Roosevelt University in 1974, he was quickly promoted from stock clerk to assistant manager at Kroch's and Brentano's Book Stores, where he had been employed since 1969.
During his 24-year career with Chicago's oldest bookstore chain, he climbed to the position of Senior Vice President of Operations. He helped build and manage the company but parted ways with the other executives when they turned on the employees, denying them their hard earned pensions. Motivated by these injustices, Phillip led, financed and won a class-action lawsuit that restored pensions to wrongfully terminated employees. After leaving Kroch's & Brentano's, he worked in the Office of Budget and Management for the City of Chicago and became Assistant Budget Director within six months. In the Budget Office, he led the Quick-Pay task force that took action to make sure that all vendors (especially minority owned enterprises) doing business with the City of Chicago were paid in a timely and proper fashion.
In 1995 he joined the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) transition team with Paul Vallas. During his five-year tenure he served as Deputy Chief of Staff, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Chief of Staff. He helped CPS achieve the highest number of contracts in Chicago history with businesses owned by Blacks, Latinos, and Women. As the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Phillip Jackson managed a team that secured millions of dollars in grant funds for new construction and renovation projects, as well as innovative educational initiatives. During his tenure at the Chicago Public Schools, Phillip became acutely aware of the racial academic achievement gap, both in Chicago and nationwide, and eventually decided to enter the non-profit sector in order to address this problem. In 1996, he founded The Black Star Project to address this issue.
In 1999, he became the CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). During his dynamic stewardship of the CHA, Jackson negotiated a $1.6 billion deal with the federal government to transform public housing in Chicago with a focus on residents' quality of life, not just the bricks and mortar. Following this concept, Phillip Jackson worked to improve the living conditions in public housing for the youth residents, he even made certain that all children received gifts of books around the holiday season. His hands-on approach included driving to every building multiple times each week to talk with residents and to take note of the status of the grounds and repairs. He designed an award-winning summer school from which 92% of failed 8th-grade participants made sufficient summer progress to be promoted to high school. The average success rate for the same population citywide hovered around 63%.
In 2000, he moved to the Office of the Mayor for the City of Chicago, where he served as Chief of Education. There he implemented the first citywide parent empowerment conference.
After serving as President and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago for one year, he elected in 2002 to devote himself full time to the organization he founded in 1996, The Black Star Project.
As the Executive Director of The Black Star Project, he has become a national leader advocating for community involvement in education and the importance of parental development to ensure that children are properly educated. Recently, he was honored as an Education Champion of Change for America by The White House, Champion of Social Justice by the Chicago African Americans in Philanthropy, Citizen of the Year by Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Monarch Man of the Year in Education by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Reclaim Our Youth Honoree by Operation Push, Education Man of the Year for the Bud Billiken Parade, Illinois Educator of the Year for the 7th Congressional District of Illinois, Champion of Social Justice by Chicago African Americans In Philanthropy, and the Ricky Birdson Father of the Year Award for the State of Illinois by the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. He was also named as one of Chicago Defender's "50 Men of Excellence" and received the Cook County State Attorney's Community Empowerment Award.