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Harold Washington (1922 – 1987): Moments in History

This site is dedicated to information about Mayor Harold Washington

These videos and podcasts capture important events in the life of Mayor Harold Washington, 1983-87

 What impact did Harold Washington have on the City of Chicago? 

  • Made city government more open and accessible
  • Made city government staff more diverse 
  • Created the Ethics Commission
  • Executive Order-Freedom of Information
  • Led Ward redistricting process to be more inclusive
  • Budget process more open and participatory
  • New central library built revitalizing South Loop
  • Balanced economic development throughout the city
  • Increased number of minority city contracts 

Source: Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center Archives located at 400 S. State Street, 9th Floor

Mayor Harold Washington Quotes

Photo by Antonio Dickey

"You want Harold?...You got 'em!!"

"Reading was an excursion that took me places an urban kid would never see..I can't imagine life without it"


"I hope someday to be remembered by history as the mayor who cared about people and who was, above all, fair. A mayor who helped, who really helped, heal out wounds and stood watch while the city and its people answered the greatest challenge in more than a century." (1st Inaugural Address-April 29, 1983)


"Business as usual will not be accepted by the people of this city, any part of this city, by this chief executive of this great city." (1st Inaugural Address-April 29, 1983)


"Mayors are the quarterbacks of American politics, and out leadership is needed more than anytime before." (U.S. Conference of Mayors, Denver, CO, June 14, 1983)


"We're climbing a great mountain and we've taken the first firm steps. We may not reach the summit in our lifetimes, but men and women of good will a century from today will look back on this gathering-this government-this movement-and say "I wish I had been a part of them. They had the courage to fight. The will to win. They sought greatness and they did good." (One year into his first term, March 8, 1984)


"We have to have the courage to live out our moral imperatives, to demonstrate not only to ourselves and our children, but to a watching world, that the return on investment is much greater when you have a whole city--red and yellow, black and white, young, old, affluent and striving, men, women and children, pulling in a symphony of achievement." (State of the City address to the League of Women Voters, April 10, 1985)


"They counted on a Chicago divided. Instead we are celebrating  Chicago diverse--working together with energy and optimism for our city's renewal. Chicago has come through--if you permit me to say so--in shining colors! "(State of the City Address, April 10, 1986)

Source: Climbing a Great Mountain by Alton Miller (located at the Harold Washington College Library, call number: F548.54 .W36 1988)