Harold Washington Archvies and Collections, Pre-Mayoral Records, U.S. Congressional Records
Scope and Contents
The materials in the U.S. Congressional record group were created by Harold Washington, along with his staff and volunteers, during his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1981-1983. These files document Washington's promotion and sponsorship of legislation; his committee work and his involvement with the Congressional Black Caucus; his correspondence and other contacts with his constituents; and his campaigns for office. The records show the extensive community activity handled by Washington's 1st District Office including casework, fundraising and the organizing of task forces to deal with such issues as housing and health. The records include reports, correspondence, research files, testimony, drafts of legislation, speeches and news clippings. For photographs, please see the Pre-Mayoral Photograph Collection.
- Creation: 1970 - 1983
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1980 - 1983
- Washington, Harold, 1922-1987 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Materials open without restrictions. Files in Series 3, Subseries A and Series 3, Subseries J have been redacted or separated for privacy reasons and are indicated as CLOSED.
Conditions Governing Use
Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.
Harold Washington (1922-1987) served the 1st Congressional District of Illinois during the 97th and 98th Congresses. Having won the Democratic primary election in March 1980, Washington carried the general election on November 4, 1980. He was sworn in on January 5, 1981. In November 1982 he was re-elected to a second term, and served until his inauguration as Mayor of Chicago on April 29, 1983.
Washington's congressional office in Washington, D.C. ("D.C. Office") was headed by Administrative Assistant William Ware. Samuel Patch served as District Administrator of the First District Office in Chicago ("District Office"). Records generated by these two offices were not always clearly identified, and Washington worked from both offices.
As Congressman, Harold Washington was a member of three congressional committees: Education and Labor; Government Operations; and Judiciary. Washington was also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the House Democratic Study Group, the Congressional Steel Caucus, and the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition.
Harold Washington was particularly concerned about civil rights and voting rights; criminal justice reform; the reduction of defense spending to benefit domestic health, education and welfare programs; and affirmative action. Best known for his active support of the extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, he also pushed for the allocation of Title I funds on the basis of the 1980 Census. His foreign policy interests included Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
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.
57 Linear Feet (in 43 boxes)
Language of Materials
Correspondence, speeches, press releases and reports from Washington’s tenure as Congressman for the First District and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Of note are his legislative files and those from his committee and caucus work.
The collection is arranged into eight series:
- Series 1: Legislative, 1979-1983
- Series 2: Committee and Caucus, 1976-1983
- Series 3: Constituent, 1971-1983
- Series 4: Campaign, 1976-1983
- Series 5: Press and Publicity, 1976-1983
- Series 6: Administrative, D.C. Office, 1980-1983
- Series 7: Biographical, 1970-1983
- Series 8: Artifact, 1981-1982
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 records were acquired by the Chicago Public Library after Harold Washington’s death.
- United States. Congress. House. Committee on Education and Labor (Organization)
- United States. Congress. House. Committee on Foreign Affairs (Organization)
- United States. Congress. House. Committee on Government Operations (Organization)
- United States. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary (Organization)
- Congressional Steel Caucus (U.S.) (Organization)
- First Congressional District of Illinois (Organization)
- Congressional Black Caucus (Organization)
- Guide to the Harold Washington Archives and Collections, Pre-Mayoral Records, U.S. Congressional Records
- Originally processed by Special Collections staff in the early 1990s. Updated by Morag Walsh, 2021. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Sarah Zimmerman, 2022.
- 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