Alfred Charles "Al" Sharpton Jr. (born October 3, 1954) is an American Baptist minister, political and civil rights/social justice activist, and radio talk show host
In 2004, Sharpton was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidential election. Sharpton hosts his own radio talk show, Keepin’ It Real and makes regular guest appearances on The O'Reilly Factor and MSNBC.
Sharpton's supporters praise "his ability and willingness to defy the power structure that is seen as the cause of their suffering and consider him "a man who is willing to tell it like it is.
Donna Wilson, host of a talk radio program on WWRL in New York City, said of him that "Al Sharpton was born to lead". Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a one-time foe, said that Sharpton deserves the respect he enjoys among African-Americans: "He is willing to go to jail for them, and he is there when they need him.
Sharpton's critics describe him as "a political radical. Sharpton sees much of the criticism as a sign of his effectiveness. "In many ways, what they consider criticism is complimenting my job," said Sharpton. "An activist’s job is to make public civil rights issues until there can be a climate for change. So when people get angry at me for raising these issues and making them public, well, that’s my job! That’s what I’m supposed to do. If I could not get the public’s attention on an issue, then I’m not a good activist.
On January 12, 1991, Sharpton escaped serious injury when he was stabbed in the chest by Michael Riccardi while Sharpton was preparing to lead a protest through Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York. The intoxicated attacker was apprehended by Sharpton's aides and handed over to police who were present for the planned protest. Sharpton, although forgiving his attacker and pleading for leniency on his behalf, filed suit against New York City alleging that the many police present had failed to protect him from his attacker. In December 2003 he finally reached a $200,000 settlement with the city just as jury selection was about to start.