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Harold Washington Archives and Collections. Pre-Mayoral Records. Mayoral Campaign Records

Identifier: spe-h00030

Scope and Contents

The Mayoral Campaign Records were created during Harold Washington’s run for Mayor of Chicago and provide tremendous insight into both the primary and general elections in 1983, and Washington’s journey to get there. The earlier records in the collection document Washington’s fundraising and support-building activities during his tenure as U.S. Congressman and there is significant information about the transition period following his success at the polls. Of particular note is Series 3: Press and Publicity which gives a sense of how racially charged the election became, and where many of Washington’s speeches are arranged. Series 4: Elections includes materials with allegations of voting irregularities.

For photographs, please see the Harold Washington Archives and Collections, Pre-Mayoral Photograph Collection.


  • Creation: 1966 - 1983
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1982 - 1983


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.


Harold Washington announced his candidacy for mayor at the Hyde Park Hilton Hotel on November 10, 1982 after months of deliberations with political advisors and friends. Before agreeing to run Washington insisted on a massive voter registration drive to secure at least 50,000 new African American voters, which he knew would be needed if he were to have a chance of winning. By November 1982 that number had almost doubled, a fact acknowledged by Washington in his inaugural speech, “My election was the result of the greatest grass roots effort in the history of the City of Chicago.”

Washington won the Democratic nomination in the primary election on February 22, 1983, defeating incumbent Mayor Jane Byrne and Cook County State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley with 36.28% of the vote. In one of Chicago’s most racially divided elections Washington drew support not only from a broad and powerful African American base, but also from a sizable number of liberal white and Hispanic voters. Harold Washington became the first African American mayor of Chicago on April 12, 1983 when he defeated Bernard E. Upton (Republican) and Ed Warren (Socialist Workers) with 51.72% of the vote.

Harold Washington was inaugurated as Chicago’s 51st mayor on April 29, 1983 at Navy Pier and won re-election in 1987.


Harold Washington was the first African American mayor of Chicago, elected in 1983.

Harold Washington was born on April 15, 1922, at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, IL. His parents, Roy Lee and Bertha Jones Washington, divorced when he was young, and he lived with his father in Chicago and attended boarding school in Milwaukee. Washington entered Chicago’s DuSable High School in 1939, served in the Civilian Conservation Corps for six months, enlisted in the military from 1943 to 1946, and returned to DuSable High School to graduate in 1946. After earning a bachelor degree at Roosevelt University in Chicago and a law degree at Northwestern University in Evanston, Washington enjoyed a career as a practicing attorney before he turned to politics.

Washington’s political career encompassed roles at the municipal, state and national levels of government. He served as Illinois State Representative for the 26th District from 1965 to 1976. He then became Illinois State Senator for the 26th District from 1976 to 1980. Washington ran for mayor of Chicago in 1977, but lost. In 1980, he became a U.S. Congressman for the 1st District and served in that post until 1983. Washington again ran for mayor in 1983, winning the Democratic primary election in February of that year and the general election in April. He was inaugurated on April 29, 1983 and was re-elected in 1987. Harold Washington died at 1:36 PM on November 25, 1987 of a cardiac arrest, just a few months into his second term as mayor. He is buried in Chicago’s Oak Woods Cemetery.


28.5 Linear Feet (in 57 boxes)

Language of Materials



In 1983 Harold Washington became Chicago's first African American mayor. His mayoral campaign is documented in detail in this collection.


To assist researchers the records have been arranged into 6 series:

Series 1: Central Office Personnel 1980-1983

Series 2: Central Office Activities, 1966-1983

Series 3: Press and Publicity, 1977-1983

Series 4: Elections, circa 1982-1983

Series 5: Administrative, circa 1982-1983

Series 6: Transition, circa 1982-1983

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The records were acquired by Chicago Public Library after Harold Washington’s death.

Related Materials

Harold Washington, Illinois State Representative Records

Harold Washington, Illinois State Senate Records

Harold Washington, U.S. Congressional Records

Harold Washington, Pre-Mayoral Photograph Collection

Harold Washington, Asian American Advisory Committee Records

Harold Washington, Central Files Records

Harold Washington, Chief of Staff Records

Harold Washington, City Council Proceedings Records

Harold Washington, Community Services Sub-Cabinet Records

Harold Washington, Development Sub-Cabinet Records

Harold Washington, Finance and Administration Sub-Cabinet Records

Harold Washington, Infrastructure Sub-Cabinet Records

Harold Washington, Intergovernmental Affairs Records

Harold Washington, Office Manager/Supervisor of Clerical Staff Records

Harold Washington, Press Office Records

Harold Washington, Public Safety/Regulatory Sub-Cabinet Records

Harold Washington, Real Estate Committee Records

Harold Washington, Schedules and Evaluations Records

Harold Washington, Videotapes

Harold Washington, Commemorative Year Archives

Harold Washington, Political Education Project Records

Guide to the Harold Washington Archives and Collections. Mayoral Campaign Records
Alison Hinterliter, circa 1994. Additional processing by Morag Walsh, 2019. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Michelle McCoy, 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

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
(312) 747-4875