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PHOTO ESSAY

Blacks in Politics, Part 2

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Harold Washington, 1983

Courtesy of AP

While serving as a House Representative from Illinois in 1983, Harold Washington was courted to run for mayor in Chicago. Aware of the heightened racial tensions of the city, Washington agreed to run only if a massive voter registration campaign was undertaken. As a result, 130,000 new voters were registered, including a large number of African American voters, and Washington won the Democratic primary in a close race against the incumbent Jane Byrne and the State Attorney Robert Daley Jr. In another close—and heated—race fraught with racial tension and contentious debate, Washington defeated the Republican candidate Bernard Epton to become Chicago's first black mayor in 1983. During his term as mayor Washington worked to diversify the city's leadership often to his opponent's outcries. Washington was easily re-elected in 1987 but died a mere seven months after. Washington served as a forerunner to the many African Americans elected as mayors of major U.S cities in the 1980s and 1990s. Other black mayors included W. Wilson Goode of Philadelphia (1984), David Dinkins of New York City (1989), Sharon Pratt of Washington, D.C. (1990), and Sharon Sayles Belton of Minneapolis (1994).

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