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Harold! Photographs from the Harold Washington Years
Harold Washington was born and raised in Chicago and well schooled in machine politics by his father. Young Washington served as a precinct captain and became and outstanding member of the state legislature. His journey to national prominence certainly was aided by decades of dedicated effort, but if ever there was a man in the right place at the right time, it was Harold Washington.

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Photo by Antonio Dickey
Photo by Antonio Dickey
Harold! Photographs from the Harold Washington Years
After six distinguished terms in the state legislature, Washington was elected to represent Illinois’ First Congressional District in 1980, the same year the nation elected conservative Republican Ronald Reagan as president. Even though his national star was rising, Washington answered the call of black Chicagoans’ to return home and run for mayor. He campaigned both as a racial candidate (his bold expressions of racial pride distinguished him from the race-neutral norm) and a political reformist. Click arrow on left or right side to see more images.
Photo by Marc Pokempner
Photo by Marc Pokempner
Harold! Photographs from the Harold Washington Years
African Americans across the nation saw the Washington campaign as another step in the civil rights movement. Political reformers considered it a populist and progressive challenge to the encrusted corruption of machine politics. With virtually every black voter, more than half of the Latino vote and about 12 percent of the white vote Washington became Chicago’s first black mayor.

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Photo by Marc Pokempner
Photo by Marc Pokempner
Harold! Photographs from the Harold Washington Years
His charismatic presence and widening reputation as a people’s intellectual gave him a personal appeal that spanned geography and social class. During his tenure, Washington opened city government to those previously excluded, he unified the black electorate into a powerful and influential political force, and he unleashed the forces on reform on many aspects of municipal government.

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Photo by Antionio Dickey
Photo by Antionio Dickey
Harold! Photographs from the Harold Washington Years
Seven months into his second term as mayor, the day before Thanksgiving 1987, Washington suffered a fatal heart attack. His sudden death traumatized black Chicagoans and it became that Chicago’s first black mayor was not just a local hero. His principled struggle against racist opposition and machine politics—and his eventual triumph—inspired activists of all stripes and provided hope for successful multiracial alliances.

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Photo by Marc Pokempner
Photo by Marc Pokempner

Harold! Photographs from the Harold Washington Years

April 3–June 27, 2008

About the photographers
Antonio Dickey, a former Chicago Daily Defender photographer, volunteered to serve as the full-time campaign photographer when Harold Washington announced his mayoral candidacy in 1982. He stayed on as official photographer to Chicago mayors and currently works for Richard M. Daley. His work has been exhibited at the Chicago Historical Society, the Harold Washington Library, and other venues.

Marc PoKempner is an independent photojournalist known for his documentation of blues in Chicago, music and life in Cuba, and the work of community-minded corporations seeking to solve social problems. His work is in the permanent collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, and has been exhibited widely. He covered Harold Washington's rise to City Hall nearly full time for the New York Times Magazine, the Chicago Reader and the Midwest bureaus of Time and People magazines. He received his BA in Philosophical Psychology from University of Chicago and completed a yearlong seminar with photographer Minor White in the graduate program in Creative Photography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.