Interview with Richard Hatcher

What did the Harold Washington campaign signify?


Ah, without a doubt Harold Washington's campaign in Chicago was a campaign of liberation, ah, for Black Chicagoans. Ah, up to that point, ah, most of the prominent Black elected officials in Chicago had been part of the machine, the Daley machine, and, and even before then. And while they were persons in many instances of, of tremendous intelligence and ability, they had always played the game. They had always been, ah, part of this structure, this machine that said, ah, "You do for me, I'll do for you; you scratch my back, I'll scratch your back." And in many instances, the interest of that machine clashed with the best interests of the Black community. And when that happened, ah, for the most part these Black elected officials went with the machine and against their own community. That's how, ah, strong their attachment and involvement was. Ah, the, ah, really fascinating thing about the Harold Washington campaign, ah, was that without a doubt the Jackson boycott of ChicagoFest and the march and the demonstrations that were led by Rev. Jesse Jackson really sparked this drive against Jane Byrne and, and for a Black mayor. But the interesting thing is that the people who picked up the ball and really ran with it were not necessarily community activists, who for years had been saying that you had to go against the machine, and people like Lu Palmer, and people like that had been fighting the machine, and the Gus Savages, and other people like that. But, this time the thing that was different was that the Black middle class business community got involved. Mr. Gardner from Soft Sheen, ah, ah, Bill Berry, ah, people who up to that point had, had sort of been looked at I think pretty much as team players, as people who didn't rock the vote, and so forth. That they really took the initiative, and they used their money, they used their influence, they used their prestige, ah, to get behind this move to support a Black mayor, particularly to convince and persuade Harold Washington that he should run. So, ah, that was kind of interesting that this real push came from the Black middle class business community in Chicago, and, and, and that way the community activists, the people at, at PUSH and other places, who as I said for years had advocated the overthrow of this machine, ah, now had a really powerful ally working with them, and they had this wonderful, ah, candidate, ah, who was truly charismatic, ah, who certainly was about as charming, ah, a person as an individual could be. And yet, you know, had this powerful voice and was, ah, really, ah, ah, had this very strong image. So all of that came together, and, ah, the groundwork I think had been laid for years, but it, it finally all came, all came together. And so it was, it, it really freed the de- ah, the Black community in Chicago in a way that it had never been free before, and particularly the Black political community. It allowed people who were in the city council and, ah, who held other offices to stand up in some cases and speak out, some cases for the very first time. And, ah, Harold Washington gave them this sense of liberation. It also gave, I think, Black people in Chicago in particular, but Hispanic people and progressive Whites a sense of hope, because in many respects, Harold Washington's election was, ah, ah, about race, yes, there was no denying it, but it was also about reform. And perhaps sometimes the question of reform was more objectionable to certain forces in the city than the question of his race. And, ah, Harold Washington made it clear from the outset that, ah, if he were elected, that he would dismantle that machine. And there would be no more patronage politics, ah, in the city of Chicago. And, ah, he was well on his way at his death. He was well on his way, you know, to making good on that, on that promise. And so, in many ways Harold Washington freed Blacks, ah, from the kind of racial oppression that they had exist- ah, that had existed before.


OK, cut. Quick change. That's great. You said everything. Mostly talk about--