Harold Washington Archives and Collections. Pre-Mayoral Photograph Collection
Scope and Contents
These photographs mostly document Harold Washington’s time in public office before becoming Mayor of the City of Chicago in April 1983. The collection begins with photographs of him as a student, in the Army and serving in the Illinois legislature, but the bulk of the collection dates from his time in Washington, D.C. as U.S. Congressman and from his 1983 campaign for Mayor of Chicago. Key events are documented in the collection including Harold Washington announcing his candidacy for Mayor, casting his own vote in the mayoral election and declaring victory. Photographs of the inauguration can be found in the Mayoral, Press Office Photographs Series. Many of the photographs show Harold Washington with constituents and at fundraising events. Other individuals in the collection include Muhammad Ali, Reverend Willie Barrow, Jane Byrne, Richard M. Daley, Charles Hayes, Clifford Kelley, Carol Moseley-Braun, Lu Palmer, Toni Preckwinkle, Al Raby, Gus Savage, John Stroger, Dolores Woods and Jim Wright.
- 1938 - 1983
- Majority of material found within 1969 - 1983
Conditions Governing Access
Materials open without restrictions.
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. 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, Ill., 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.
5 Linear Feet (in 5 boxes, includes 476 photographs)
Language of Materials
This collection begins with photographs of Harold Washington as a student, in the Army and as a member of the Illinois legislature, but the bulk of the collection dates from his time in Washington, D.C., as U.S. Congressman, and from his 1983 campaign for Mayor of Chicago.
The collection has been arranged into five series. With the exception of photographs from Harold Washington’s youth (Series 1), series correspond to Harold Washington’s public service career (Series 2-5).
- Series 1: Early Life, circa 1937-1949
- Series 2: Illinois State Representative, circa 1969-1977
- Series 3: Illinois State Senate, 1977-circa 1980
- Series 4: U.S. Congress, 1981-1983
- Series 5: 1983 Mayoral Campaign, 1982-1983
Researchers should note that there may be overlap in the U.S. Congress and the 1983 Mayoral Campaign series as Harold Washington’s mayoral campaign was underway during his Congressional term. Some folders have several photographs.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Most of these photographs were accessioned with the rest of the Harold Washington Archives and Collections. A small portion of the collection (Box 5 Folders 1-22) were acquired by the Library in 2001 through both purchase and donation.
- Guide to the Harold Washington Archives and Collections. Pre-Mayoral Photograph Collection
- Morag Walsh, 2014. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Sarah Zimmerman, 2022.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
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