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Remembering Harold

The dispirited local political scene of today presents a sharp contrast to the mayoralty of Harold Washington, a time of great political fervor, with thousands of citizens across the city engaged in grassroots activity and debate and working together across race and class lines.

His historic mayoralty had its roots in popular movements for civil rights, peace, civil liberties and open government. His constant refrain was that he was merely “an instrument of the movement,” but it turns out that his leadership may have been a crucial element of that movement.

Harold Washington was elected mayor of Chicago 25 years ago this April and served until his death 20 years ago November 27, and the two dates will bracket a series of public events commemorating his legacy, sponsored by former staff members, colleagues, friends and supporters.

The Harold Washington Commemorative Year will kick off at a press conference Thursday, November 1, 5 p.m. in the lower level reception hall of the Harold Washington Library, celebrating the release of “Harold! Photographs from the Harold Washington Years,” by photographers Antonio Dickey and Mark PoKempner with text by Salim Muwakkil.

On November 25, clergy representing the range of Chicago’s spiritual traditions — including Rev. Jesse Jackson — will lead an interfaith memorial service at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington.

The 25th anniversary of his election will be marked April 12 with a symposium analyzing Washington’s legacy and its application to the present and future.

Activities are planned throughout the six-month period — including a staged musical reading of noted AACM saxophonist and composer Edward Wilkerson’s opera, “Harold in Chicago.”

“We want to engage youth and talk to people who weren’t around,” said Mary Gerace of the Harold Washington Commemorative Year. “It won’t be a nostalgia fest — though we’ll share a lot of great Harold stories. But there are important lessons for the present and the future, and we need to hear them.”

For more: Mary Gerace, Harold Washington Commemorative Year, 708-345-8045,

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Category: Harold Washington, history

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3 Responses

  1. Bennett J. Johnson says:

    I would like to be kept informed of the activities.

    I was one of his closest friends and advisors beginning in 1947.

  2. Demetrio Maguigad says:

    I was in Junior High when he was in office and still remember his charisma… he always seemed to have a charged smile on his face when he spoke to the people.

    Now, as I had worked through many nonprofits, I continue to meet and have the opportunity to work with people who knew him or who were inspired to be active because of him.

  3. Curtis says:

    The Harold Washington Commemorative Year launched its website yesterday –

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