Steve Askin Papers
Scope and Contents
These files were created by Steve Askin in his role as Harold Washington’s Communications Director before the Chicago mayoral Democratic Primary election on April 19, 1977 and as his Press Secretary in 1981. In addition to information about Washington’s positions on key issues, there is significant documentation of the immediate aftermath of the 1977 loss, including a report, written by Askin, assessing the situation and how to move forward.
Of particular note are the files marked “Police Surveillance/Red Squad” which Harold Washington requested and obtained. The Red Squad was a unit within the Chicago Police Department that carried out both overt and covert tactics of surveillance, intimidation and infiltration on individuals and organizations it deemed revolutionary. After the 1968 Democratic National Convention the Red Squad expanded its targets from communists and anarchists to civil rights organizations, including Operation Breadbasket and Operation PUSH. Harold Washington attended both of these organizations’ meetings and he is identified in these reports. Lastly, there is a collection of press releases and speeches given by Congressman Washington, prepared by Steve Askin, and a 1977 campaign poster.
- Creation: 1969 - 1984
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1977 - 1983
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.
Biographical / Historical
Steve Askin (born 1953) was Harold Washington’s Communications Director during his unsuccessful run for mayor in 1977. Askin at first served as a communications assistant in the campaign. He took over the Communications Director role in mid-March 1977, after the resignation of Don Rose. After losing the election, Washington continued serving as Illinois State Senator until 1980 when he was elected to the U.S. Congress. Askin joined Congressman Washington’s staff in December 1980 serving as Press Secretary, based in Washington, D.C. Askin later volunteered in Washington’s north side campaign office during the successful 1983 Chicago mayoral election.
Askin has devoted his career to uncovering corporate and governmental abuses that harm the poor, working people and people of color in the U.S. and internationally. In a global journalism career, Askin’s writings include investigations of sanctions-busting under South African apartheid for Business Week, the global trade in landmines for Human Rights Watch, and union-busting for the Chicago Reporter and In These Times. From 1994 until his retirement at the end of 2017, he served as a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Research Coordinator leading investigations of companies that deny workers their right to a just wage and union representation.
Askin dropped out of the University of Chicago to work with Harold Washington in 1977 though he belatedly received his AB degree from that same university in 1991. He earned an MBA in Accounting at Columbia University in 1993.
0.75 Linear Feet (in 2 boxes plus 1 oversize folder)
Language of Materials
Steve Askin was Harold Washington’s Communications Director during his unsuccessful run for mayor in 1977. In addition to information about Washington’s positions on key issues, there is significant documentation of the immediate aftermath of the loss, including a report, written by Askin, assessing the situation and how to move forward. Of particular note are the files marked “Police Surveillance/Red Squad” which Harold Washington requested and obtained.
Original order has mostly been preserved though some minor adjustments have been made by the archivist. Arrangement is largely chronological. Files containing information generated by Chicago’s Red Squad have been grouped together then arranged chronologically. Materials relating to the 1977 Democratic Primary election are also grouped together and arranged chronologically. The press releases and speeches that date from Washington’s time as U.S. Congressman have also been arranged chronologically, where possible.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated by Steve Askin in 2017. A campaign poster and second copies of 10 press releases were donated by John Cameron in 2017.
- Guide to the Steve Askin Papers
- Morag Walsh, 2017. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Sarah Zimmerman, 2021.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English
Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository
Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States