Harold Washington Archives and Collections, Illinois State Senatorial Records
Scope and Contents
This collection reflects Harold Washington's legislative activities, service on committees, and responses to concerns of constituents while he served as Illinois State Senator. There are small amounts of material on his unsuccessful Chicago Mayoral Primary campaign of 1977, his successful Illinois State Senatorial campaign in 1978, and his successful United States Congressional campaign in 1980. The strengths of the collection include Washington’s legislative files and the activities of the Legislative Black Caucus. Records include correspondence, drafts of legislation, invitations, memoranda, promotional materials, reports, research files, and testimony. For photographs, please see the Pre-Mayoral Photograph Collection.
- 1969 - 1981
- Majority of material found within 1976 - 1980
- Washington, Harold, 1922-1987 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions. Some files have been redacted or closed for privacy reasons.
Conditions Governing Use
Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.
Biographical / Historical
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, Illinois. 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.
Harold Washington (1922-1987) served as Illinois State Senator for the 26th Legislative District of Illinois from 1976 to 1980. During Harold Washington’s tenure as senator, he was an active participant on several committees. He served as vice-chairman of the Senate Judiciary II Committee, and chairman of the Legislative Reference Bureau and the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Corrections Committee. He was also a member of the Senate Rules Committee, the Joint House and State Committee on Long-Term State Debt, the Joint House and Senate Committee to Study the Public Air Code (HB 3449), and the Legislative Advisory Committee on Public Aid. Washington is recognized as a founding member of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. Senate Bills that Senator Washington sponsored include an appropriation to save Provident Hospital in Chicago, Currency Exchange Reforms, Small Business “Set Aside” Acts, Branch Banking Legislation, and acts establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission and the Civil Rights Study Commission.
10.5 Linear Feet (in 21 boxes, plus 2 oversize folders)
Language of Materials
Reports, minutes, correspondence, newsletters and news clippings from Harold Washington’s tenure as State Senator from 1976 to 1980. The records reflect Washington’s involvement with various committees, particularly the Fair Employment Practices Commission and the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, of which he was a founding member.
The collection is arranged into seven series:
- Series 1: Legislative, 1972-1981
- Series 2: Committee and Caucus, 1977-1980
- Series 3: Constituent, 1976-1981
- Series 4: Campaign, 1977-1980
- Series 5: Press and Publicity, 1976-1980
- Series 6: Biographical and Personal, 1969-1980
- Series 7: Administrative, 1977-1981
Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least 24-hours prior to your research visit to coordinate access.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Chicago Public Library acquired the records after Harold Washington’s death.
- Air quality -- Law and legislation -- Illinois Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Corrections -- Illinois Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Currency exchanges (Domestic) -- Legislation Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Discrimination in employment -- Legislation Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Illinois Legislative Black Caucus
- Illinois. General Assembly. Joint Committee on Administrative Rules
- Illinois. General Assembly. Legislative Reference Bureau
- Illinois. General Assembly. Senate
- Illinois. General Assembly. Senate Legislative Advisory Committee on Public Aid
- Illinois. General Assembly. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary
- Illinois. Joint Committee on Long-Term State Debt
- Political campaigns -- Illinois -- Chicago. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Public health -- Illinois Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Public welfare -- Illinois Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Washington, Harold, 1922-1987
- Washington, Harold, 1922-1987 (Person)
- Guide to the Harold Washington Archives and Collections, Illinois State Senatorial Records
- Originally processed by Special Collections staff in the early 1990s. Updated by Morag Walsh, 2021. Ingested into ArchivesSpace by Johanna Russ, 2021.
- early 1990s
- 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