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. In April of 1983, Herald Washington wrote a wave of white, Hispanic, and Black support into City Hall becoming Chicago's first black mayor. I'm John Hanson. Join me this week on in Black America. I'm not about to narrow my thinking in terms of dialogue or possible choices to white candidates. Period. The Honorable Herald Washington, Mayor of Chicago this week on in Black America. This is in Black America. Reflections of the Black Experience in American society.
I think in a sense, yes, but understand is part of a continuum. It's a process that's been going on. And what happened in Chicago was just to press at that particular moment. I think this thing is mushrooming. And I think you can attribute it much to the election of other Black mayors, growing awareness on the part of not just Blacks the extension of the Voting Rights Act and the attendance fight which went on so long which brought the issues very sharply, plus the election of brotherhood and so on.
All this is part of a continuum. And at Winnie particular time, which was April 12, we were at the crest of that continuum. And so the focus was there. So the answer to that extent is yes. But I don't think we can isolate Chicago as being say, serigenerous in a class by itself in the only place in this country where Blacks and Hispanics are becoming a rouse about their political powerlessness. So it's in that context that we can say yes, Chicago helps stimulate subsequent registration, which I expect is going to be monumental for the president's election. The honorable Harold Washington Mayor City of Chicago. In April of 1983, Harold Washington wrote a wave of white, Hispanic and Black support into City Hall. Many say his election was the single most important event, the spurred nationwide registration among Blacks, and prompt other Blacks to run for political offices at all levels of government. The election of Washington Mark not only the changing of the Guard and Chicago's municipal government,
but also the changing of the color and philosophy of the Guard. I'm John Hanson. This week, the honorable Harold Washington, Mayor of City of Chicago in Black America. Who am I to say whether a Black woman or Hispanic or an Irishman should run? I think anybody who wants to run for president of the United States should get out there and run. That includes Black. I think that the good that would come from Black candidates being involved in a spirited democratic primary, and I stress primary and convention, would be an added ingredient. We have an experience called a Black experience, which I don't think has been brooted about enough in this country. We've come through the crucible. We have something to offer.
We have our own peculiar, unique, populous way of presenting problems. We see deeply into the problems of the world. War and peace to us is bread and butter, not just some moral imperative, although it's that also. In other words, a Black candidate can articulate these issues in my opinion, but in anyone else. They can show the contradictions between spending 200-some-odd billions of dollars per year on war material we just don't need. At the same time denying food stamps and educational propensities and Medicaid and Social Security expansion and seeding dollars through UDag and others through the cities which must have money. We can see the contradiction, and I'm so clearly an expression in very concrete terms. Bottom line is that a Black candidate would add something to the total discussion in this country, which is absolutely necessary. I don't think that blacks at this time nationally should isolate themselves in the third party movement. I think they have to make the choice between the lesser of two evils
and I stress evil. But one has to function. You don't live in a vacuum. It's the only crap game in the country. So you've got to get involved in it. I happen to have opted for the Democratic party because I think it's the lesser of those two evils. I think there's tremendous room for growth in the party. I don't think that party can survive unless it gets its tremendous injection of blacks, Hispanics, and women and senior citizens in this country. I think that kind of a coalition building is absolutely necessary within the confines of the Democratic primary. And the bottom line is that the issue is resolved at the Democratic convention. But I think the issues must be brought out and brought out clearly. I am mindful of 1948. Most of you weren't born then. I look so young, people think I wasn't, but I was. In 1948 George Henry Wallace provided a very, very useful dialogue. And he forced Mr. Truman to move into the area of civil rights speedily. There's no question about it.
Now whether or not a black candidate would emerge as a nominee is remains to be seen. I'm simply saying this. I'm not about to narrow my thinking in terms of dialogue or possible choices to white candidates. In 1967, when Karl B. Stokes was electric mayor of the city of Cleveland, Ohio, it marked the first time that a black had been chosen to lead a large city and extinguished the beginning of a new age of black politics. Since that beginning, the interest of blacks have shown in politics have been natured and transformed into enough votes to elect black mayors in many of this country's larger cities. Today, black mayors have moved into the mainstream of American politics. Bringing with them their own brand of expertise and sensitivity. In April of 1983, Hill Washington became the first black mayor of Chicago, the second largest city in the United States. The election of Washington threatened the longstanding rule of Chicago's Democratic machine because he won the Democratic primary and the general election
as a largely anti-organization independent, though he had one reluctance to party support in some quarters. Aaron Washington was born on April 15, 1922. As a young man, he ran errands for the Democratic organization making political contacts that would later prove useful. After graduating from DeSable High School, he entered the Army Air Force station in the Pacific. After the war, Washington attended Roosevelt University in Chicago, where he studied political science and economics, and won an election to the Office of Senior Class President in 1949. After Mayor Washington received his BA degree, he enrolled at Northwestern University Law School, which granted him a law degree in 1952. From 1965 through 1976, Hill watched and served for six terms in the Illinois House of Representatives, and from 1977 through 1980,
he was a member of the State Senate, acquire a reputation as an innovative legislator and an eloquent orator. Paving the road to parity has been our lifetime quest in that of our forefathers, and we're still about that business. I have no doubt that we shall prevail, but I sometimes get a bit weary of traveling over the same territory time after time after time. We just can't seem to get the sustained attention of the people who don't understand that parity is what this country is all about, and it functions better when it does at least resemble or reproach it. In October of 1983, after I'd been in office about six months, I was invited to speak to the TV producers in Chicago, which is an annual invitation to the mayor to come in and bash the TV and bash the media if he's so desires. Well, I gathered in the past most mayors were far more circumspect than I, and they never bashed them before.
So I said, I should break the continuum and start bashing the media. Not in a negative, vitriotic sense, but in a positive sense. So my theme, when I spoke to them that year, four years ago, was lack of parity in the media for minorities and women. And I dwelt on that rather exhaustively, some said, incessantly, and tried to point out that one reason why Chicago still was not quite where it should be, what was only in the process of becoming what it should be, was because the news never quite came out the way it was really recorded in history where it actually happened, and that it came out in a skewed fashion because the people who interpreted the news, people who saw the news, who thought about the news in the main, and then regurgitated in terms of just portraying it or analyzing it, simply didn't have a total perspective because their ranks were lopsided. In the sense that it was dominated by Anglo-Saxon,
and you didn't have Hispanics, you didn't have women, you didn't have blacks, and other minorities in there to winnow out, interpret, siphon, and help make news more meaningful and reflect what was actually happening. That's a convoluted way of saying that the news was biased in Chicago. It is still biased in Chicago. It should forever be biased in Chicago, until people get pretty darn fit up with it and start demanding that they do something about it from a get-go, and that is restructuring the whole makeup of it in terms of editors, in terms of part ownership, perhaps, in terms of editor of journalists on the street, in terms of anger person, in terms of sales person, in terms of editors and producers and the whole gambit, so that the final product could reflect what was reasonably close to what was existing in our city. And I suppose that is your theme. And it's not just for some esoteric reason that you're saying that. This country is a democracy, I believe it. I think it's moving inexorably in that direction
in so far as parity of vote and potency of vote and individual votes are concerned. And I think that democracy can only prevail if all segments of that democracy are heard and really have open sesame to whatever they want or can do, qualifiedly, in any area of life, with its housing, education, whatever. I believe that. And I think all people believe that. I think it's that belief that keeps us going. And it's the belief that we must be a factor in trying to make that true that keeps us as a race, going even more so. And it's because of that that I think we're in a unique position to make a serious contribution to the body of politics called the United States over the next few years. It might well be as I've said that you here in this room will be the main spear carriers, the main message carriers, in that quest to bring about parity and to bring about democracy and to bring about a better world. And it does make a difference. There are so many issues confronting this country that need balanced coverage,
that need circumspect treatment, that need serious, relatively objective handling. And in the sense also needs advocates. I am not other school of thought that says that newspapers are objective. That's a lot of baloney. I don't expect them to be baloney or be a... I don't expect them to be objective. But I do like to see my interpretation in the news sometimes, after to someone else's interpretation always being in the news. The cities of this country are confronting with a tremendous, tremendous problem. Most of them are in serious financial situations and are constantly on the quest for what has now been euphemistic calls or called revenue enhancements. We're having serious trouble. Our tax bases have been eroded by the federal government siphoning up those dollars. Programs have been put back upon us because the federal government has pulled back the dollars. We've lost our heavy industry in many cases,
and some of us are transferring from industry into service, et cetera, et cetera. Our jobless rate has gone up. Our school systems have become eroded because, mainly because, the commitment to public education has been lost primarily by those people who, in the past, escalated themselves up the economic and educational system, and then abandoned that system when others like the Hispanics and the Blacks came in. And so the cities are confronted with some serious, serious problems. And we need help in portraying those problems so that the country itself can understand what's happening. You've noticed, over the last several years, there's been a gradual coming together of the cities in this country, primarily through the conference of Mayors, but through other avenues, making it loud and clear that the federal government has a responsibility to make certain that some of those dollars are returned to the cities so that we can function better. That is a message difficult to get across, because it has to be siphoned through newspapers, radio, TV, and the policy of those papers in that media, in many cases,
is antipythetical to what we're trying to say. It is difficult, difficult, difficult to impress upon people, the fact that public housing must proliferate, that affordable housing is necessary, that housing, housing, urban housing program is necessary for the entire country if you can't get the message out, but through the media. If you've been watching the news in Chicago over the past several months, you've noticed a sort of a lopsided statement being made about Chicago Public Housing. Over the past 20-some years, in Chicago, public housing was used as a market. It was run through the passionate system, deferred maintenance mounted higher and higher and higher. It was abused because the machine used it not to provide for safer, say-in-a-quiet peace for housing for poor people, but to control the vote as best they could by treating people like cattle and using, as I said before,
the Chicago Housing Authority as a market for their bond merchants, for their craft union people, for their contractors, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It was at this grace, and one of the reasons why I was elected was because people were fed up with it and wanted to make a significant change. That was done. In 1980, Mayor Hale Washington had any defeated the organization candidate in the party's first district United States Congressional primary on the city's south side, and then easily scored a victory over the Republican opponent in the 92 percent black district. While in Congress, Mayor Washington was the fifth most frequent house Democrat opponent of President Reagan's policies on the key roll call votes in 1982, and helped put together a coalition that preserved the key figures of the 1965 Voting Rights Act against the administration's attempt to weaken it. In 1982, Mayor Washington was approached again about running for mayor. He expressed reluctance because he wanted to stay in Congress,
but political developments in the black community soon changed his mind. Scoring an upset primary victory, Mayor Washington received 36.3 percent of the vote to Jane Burns, 33.5 percent, and Daly's 29.8 percent. The key to his success was a record primary turnout of 69 percent of the eligible black vote, who gave him 82 percent of their votes, while whites voted split their votes almost equally between Byrne and Daly. Fearful that a Washington loss would damage its standing among blacks across the nation, the National Democratic Party gave him more backing than any other mayor or candidate had ever received. Despite initial coodness on the part of its leading figures, although the Democratic National Committee contribute $90,000 to its campaign, created a Chicago task force and pressured Chicago's Democratic leaders to back the party's nominee, and though Democrats from across the nation campaigned for him,
those outside efforts were believed to have generated more resentment than support from within the parochial world of Chicago politics. During the last two weeks of the campaign, the tide against Harold Washington seemed to turn. On March 27, he was verbally abused by an angry crowd when he attended a church with Walter Mondale on the mostly white northwest side. William Zimmerman, Washington's media advisor, believed that the unsamely behavior of the crowd forced many voters to face the consequences of their racism, causing them to draw back, quote, from a line they didn't want to cross, unquote. The election of Harold Washington on April 12, 1983, was an event of national importance, since it was expected to increase black voter registration throughout the nation, and it immediately established him as one of the nation's most important black leaders. During his first few months in office, Mayor Washington made several trips across the country,
receiving exuberant welcome in black communities, and urged their members to register and vote. Well, we are now approaching what I think in Chicago was pretty close to a constitutional crisis, in the sense that the federal government through HUD has decided, for no reason other than the fact that you think it can, to take over, literally take over, lock, stock, and barrel, the Chicago Housing Authority. We maintain that it can't be done, because the Chicago Housing Authority is a municipal corporation empowered by the state to take care of and run and manage the Chicago Housing Authority, and they have a service contract with the federal government, and they work hand in glove with each other in parity, to try to give a delivery service called housing to poor people. Nevertheless, HUD has seen fit to try to take it over claiming that their mismanagement has been going on so long that something must be done. We have literally revolutionized our management situation there.
We have an entirely new board, made up of prestigious people. We have an interim management team, which is second to none. We have elicited the support of the private sector, and the real estate industry, and so forth, put together an advisory team of some of the finest minds we could find, including the Field Customers, Secretary of Commerce under Jimicara. And we have done something in the AmeriSquare areas that very few cities have done. We've reached into the coffers of the city, and pulled out $30 million, and offered it to the Chicago Housing Authority as an act of faith to permit them to get over that hump. That combination of things, reorganization, commitment, and dollars is something that you just don't find throughout this country, and so far as public housing is concerned. We've done all those things because we feel Chicago has turned the corner, and is heading in a new direction, dramatized this morning by AmeriSquare as when he spoke about his own city. We're heading in a similar direction, reorganizing, reprioritizing, re-adjusting,
tightening our belts, raising our bond rating, for example, for the first time in 28 years, cutting out the fat, freedom of information, fair hiring. We haven't quite replicated the figures of Miami, but we're getting there. In short, Chicago is making a new statement, and anyone who wants to listen can see that we're making a new statement. And anyone who doesn't see that either doesn't want to see it or has been blinded by the fact that the media in Chicago in the main does not care about us making a new statement, but simply wants to pillarize, castigate, and even, as Mayor Daley once say, criticize us incessantly for things not done. In short, the media in Chicago are not portraying the government of Chicago. They portraying their own narrow biases, which have been steeped and honed and built up over a period of years, motivated by an unarticulated premise, which brings about your theme, the necessity of parity.
Shall I continue to be euphemistic, or do you want me to say it bluntly? Chicago is a great and good city. It's got everything it needs to work with. If we can just get press in terms of its attitude, in terms of its structure, in terms of its makeup, and in terms of its final product on parity with its government and with its people, there is nothing to stop us. But the voices there are fewer numbers, and most of the voices are weak. If you look at our major media, you don't find a black adjournalist in the main. If you look at our two major metropolitan papers, there's one black on each editorial board. I must stop here and give an accolade to one gentleman who has tackled the giants in our city, who calls it like he sees it, who describes the issues as he sees them,
who never backs up, who is an ombudsman for all this good and decent within our city, who knows history, Jewish, Irish, Polish, and black from head to toe and hip to hip, and never hesitate to regurgitate it. A gentleman who, in my opinion, is the epitome of what modern journalism should be about. Modern journalism, among you today. And I certainly don't want to embarrass him, but I must confess to you that he has been a pillar of strength in terms of trying to couch the issues in such a way that people understand that there are two sides of these issues that they must be in a position to have those, otherwise it can't make serious decisions about what must be done. But what is happening in Chicago is not unique to Chicago. I think you find it all over the country. We've simply got to get a handle on this question of parity in the media,
or we are going to be second bananas from now on. We've got to have an opinion to infest, to saturate, to be a part of that institution called a media, called a press, radio, TV, and print. And we've got to be about to business in all these cities, of doing whatever is necessary to make certain that there is parity, whether it takes boycotts, economical otherwise, whether it takes marches, whatever it takes it's got to be done. You are the people who have to do it. And once it's done, when you get on these papers, you've got to function in such a way that you merit and deserve to kind of fight is going to take to get you there. You're in for a tough, tough sled. You have those of you who are young and entering to the field of journalism. You're going into more or less pristine waters. You're going into a field which in my opinion is just about as biased as any institution in this country can possibly be. And you're going into a field or your inner field in which the first amendment is used not as a shield but as a sword to continue to beat down others, to continue to frustrate the legitimate ambitions of many people,
and it continued to fight off rather than continue to open up and give clear and free portrayal of the news. It was disheartening to a certain extent. It's also a serious challenge. You are in the third wave of a three-prong movement which is culminating now in which blacks in this country have got to move into the business world. The business world is the media. We have not quite gotten a handle on it. Politics is just another media. It is not the end. It may not even be the most important. But we're moving in that area and moving well. We've gone from the legislative area and where power is dispersed into the executive area where it's concentrated. But those who wield that power can't do it unless the people they represent understand the problems they're confronted with.
And in America, that just is not being done. So you're on the right quest when you talk about parity in the media. And I think you should continue to raise your voices as loud as you possibly can and never cease doing so. I think you can win this battle. I think you can win it because the numbers are with you. Mayor Suarez talked about 80 percent minority here in Miami. And Chicago, the minority population is roughly 65 percent plus and Detroit is around 65 percent. And it's going up, up, up. It makes no sense that these papers and these cities continue to give the biased news that they give. You know what I know that most metropolitan papers do not cater to the working or reading public within the city. They reach out to the suburbs and try to embrace the suburban leadership. But yet still, they're based in these cities.
They own property in these cities. They develop their papers in these cities and they ignore the people right around them. They control to a great extent these cities. You're in the forefront of a movement. It's got to do something about it. I commend you to it. I hope that throughout this entire country, the eyes are on Miami because the parity of which you speak is something that has to come. I for one and others will join you in that quest because we're wrapped up in extricably in a dance of life and a dance which obviously and could it must end in a victory for us. Today, although the Chicago City Government continued to be plagued by racial polarization and ridden with machine politics during 1984, Mayor Washington could be credited with some successes as a reform mayor. He gave his support to a court order designed to rid the city of the last vestiges of patronage, encouraged city employees to unionize, reduced the staggering budget deficit inherited from a pre-administration and cut down the size of the garbage crews.
Maybe his most important achievement was his hiring of many more blacks, women, and Hispanics to top post. The honorable Harold Washington Mayor, City of Chicago. In keeping with our commitment to keep you better informed in Black America's conference convention calendar, on November 1 through the 4th, Florida A&M University will hold its third annual national conference on black student retention at the Tampa Hyatt Regency Hotel in Tampa, Florida. For more information, you may call Dr. Calcina A. Ford, Retention Conference Coordinator at Area Code 904-599-3527. If you have a comment or would like to purchase a cassette copy of this program, write us. The address is in Black America, Longhorn Radio Network, UT Austin, Austin, Texas 78712.
For in Black America's Technical Producer, Cliff Hargrove, I'm John L. Hanson, Jr. Please join us next week. You've been listening to In Black America, Reflections of the Black Experience in American Society. In Black America is produced and distributed by the Center for Telecommunication Services, at UT Austin, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Texas at Austin or this station. This is The Longhorn Radio Network.
In Black America
The Honorable Harold Washington
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Speech by the Mayor of Chicago at 12th Annual National Association of Black Journalists Conference
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Chicago: “In Black America; The Honorable Harold Washington,” 1987-09-08, KUT Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 9, 2023,
MLA: “In Black America; The Honorable Harold Washington.” 1987-09-08. KUT Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 9, 2023. <>.
APA: In Black America; The Honorable Harold Washington. Boston, MA: KUT Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from