Harold Washington, The First Black Mayor of Chicago

By The Obsidian Collection Archives

The election of Mayor Harold Washington was an important milestone in the history of Chicago.  The city's Black community came together with a committed focus to elect their first Black mayor. He worked with the leadership of the city and drew the admiration of leaders around the country. He served the city as Mayor from 1983 until 1987, when his plans and vision for the city were cut short by his untimely death while in office.  

Harold greets the crowd (1987-05-04) by Chicago Defender ArchivesThe Obsidian Collection Archives

Harold Washington agreed to run for mayor if 50,000 additional citizens registered to vote. In a short time, more than 200,000 new voters were signed up! In a three-way race, it was enough.

Mayor Washington and Police (1986) by Chicago Defender ArchivesThe Obsidian Collection Archives

Mayor Washington and Superintendent Fred Rice posed with policemen cited for bravery.

Harold and the children (1987-07-14) by Chicago Defender ArchivesThe Obsidian Collection Archives

The Mayor and the cast of "Project!", the Cabrini Green Musical performed at the Free Street Theater.

Harold and the VP candidate (1984) by Chicago Defender ArchivesThe Obsidian Collection Archives

The Mayor and his political opponent, Ed Vrdolyak stand side-by-side with Geraldine Ferraro, the first female nominee for Vice-President.

Harold and Carol Moseley Braun (1983-07-13) by Chicago Defender ArchivesThe Obsidian Collection Archives

This photo ran in The Chicago Defender Newspaper around July 1983.  The press release read: Mayor Harold Washington and Charles Hayes, 1st District congressional candidate, discuss Mr. Hayes’ campaign and their combined efforts to defeat the policies of the “Vrdolyak 29” [the 29 councilmen who often voted to block Washington’s initiatives] during Chicago’s recent New World Patriotism Day festivities. The original crop markings from the Chicago Defender staffer omit the enthusiastic young lady who would become the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, Carol Moseley Braun.

Harold and Johnny Mathis (1986-10-31) by Chicago Defender ArchivesThe Obsidian Collection Archives

Mayor Harold Washington and his fiancee Mary Ella Smith attended the opening night performance of celebrated singer, Johnny Mathis at The Chicago Theater.

Harold at a parking meter (1986-10-31) by Chicago Defender ArchivesThe Obsidian Collection Archives

The mayor made great efforts to revitalize the City's Revenue Collection System. He awarded five new contracts for parking meter collections.

Harold and Jane (1986) by Chicago Defender ArchivesThe Obsidian Collection Archives

In the spirit of good governance, Mayor Washington works with former Mayor Jane Byrne whom he defeated.

Harold and Richard (1986) by Chicago Defender ArchivesThe Obsidian Collection Archives

At a groundbreaking ceremony for a city project, the mayor shares a laugh with the future mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley.

Mayor Harold Washington (1986) by Chicago Defender ArchivesThe Obsidian Collection Archives

The Chicago Defender Newspaper had a very important role in the election of Mayor Harold Washington.  The newspaper's early coverage of his candidacy helped galvanize the Black community to record numbers of registered new voters which subsequently led him to victory.  

Credits: Story

Source: The Chicago Defender Newspaper Archives
Partnered with The Obsidian Collection Archives

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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