Jackson was born on December 21, 1948, in Washington, D.C. and grew up as an only child in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
His father lived away from the family in Kansas City, Missouri, and later died from alcoholism. Jackson only met his father twice during his life. Jackson was raised by his mother, Elizabeth Jackson (née Montgomery), who was a factory worker and later a supplies buyer for a mental institution, and by his maternal grandparents and extended family. According to DNA tests, Jackson partially descends from the Benga people of Gabon.
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