Harold Washington was Mayor of Chicago between 1983 and 1987. In that short time, he left his mark on Chicago and changed it for the better. Remembered as being one of Chicago’s great orators, Harold Washington charmed and inspired his audiences through carefully drafted speeches. Though few audio recordings exist, we are pleased to announce our new, digital collection of Washington’s written speeches, Harold Washington: Selected Speeches Digital Collection. These speeches were delivered to a wide variety of audiences and cover many different topics. For example, speeches given to students at university commencements and high school graduations are inspiring and personal, while speeches to business leaders and community groups tend to focus more on economics, specific issues and city policies. They provide insight into the daily goings on in Chicago during the so-called Council Wars era, but also found broader, national audiences as Washington traveled the country rallying Democrats to vote in the 1984 Presidential election.

The speeches offer a glimpse into Washington’s deeply held views on many subjects, his values and his sense of humor. He believed that the day would come for a president and vice president to be both female and of color. He warned about the dangers of a press guided by political considerations rather than by honest reporting. Above all, he firmly believed that Chicago only works when Chicago Works Together.

After you’ve explored the speeches, join us online for a virtual celebration of Mayor Washington’s life and legacy. [link to news post] Then, learn more by visiting Chicago Public Library’s Special Collections and Preservation Division, which holds the Harold Washington Archives and Collections and other archival collections related to Harold Washington, or check out some of these books below.

Climbing A Great Mountain

Harold, the People’s Mayor

Mayor Harold Washington

Fire on the Prairie

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By Sarah

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