This American Life- Harold Washington

I almost forgot- a couple of weeks ago I heard this great story on “This American Life” on NPR– it was about Chicago’s first black mayor- Harold Washington. very well done. i learned alot of things i didn’t know about the history of Chicago.

listen here


84: Harold

A parable of politics and race in America. The story of Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, told two decades after his death. Washington died on November 25, 1987.

Act One. Yesterday.A history of the brief mayoral career of Harold Washington, and its lessons for black and white America, as told by people close to him. Many are activists and politicians: Lu Palmer, Judge Eugene Pincham, Congressman Danny Davis, then-alderman Eugene Sawyer.

There are people from his administration—Jackie Grimshaw and Grayson Mitchell—and some reporters who followed his story: Vernon Jarrett, Monroe Anderson, Gary Rivlin, Laura Washington (who became his press secretary).

Plus, a few ordinary voters and a political opponent of the late mayor.

Act One continues after the break. (48 minutes)

Act Two. The Present and the Future.

Twenty years after Harold’s death, we take up the question: has white Chicago changed?

Host Ira Glass reviews how black candidates have fared in white wards since Harold, with someone uniquely situated to know: David Axelrod, who was a political advisor to Harold Washington during Washington’s second mayoral race and who is also chief political and media advisor to Illinois Senator (and Presidential candidate) Barack Obama.

Ira also checks in with Judge Eugene Pincham, ten years after their first interview.

Then, WBEZ Chicago reporter Robert Wildeboer goes out to several wards where Harold Washington did very poorly in the ’80s, including one where he got less than one percent of the vote, to find out if a black man ran for mayor today, the same kinds of things would happen. (11 minutes)


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