The Rev. Jesse Jackson, probably the most well known civil rights activist in the U.S., believes the birther issue against President Barack Obama is purely driven by racism and represents part of a wider scaling back of civil rights gains by black Americans.

Jackson made the charges to Politico yesterday (prior to this morning’s release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate by The White House) in response to Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the president.

Any discussion of [Obama’s] birthplace is a code word, said Jackson. It calls upon ancient racial fears.

Jackson added: Trump has trumpeted this cause. For him to go down this low is a bit surprising. He is now tapping into code-word fears that go far beyond a rational discourse.

Jackson also suggested that other recent issues – including the Republicans’ hostility toward public sector unions – are largely a backlash against civil rights progress.

I'm saying there's a pattern here. It's not just name calling of Barack. We'll win that battle, said Jackson 'There is a retreat-- a pronounced, documented retreat on civil rights enforcement. This is the most personal attacks on any president ever. Whose personal religion has ever been challenged before? That has strong racial overtones.

Jackson himself ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988.