Interview with Lu Palmer

Continue on talking about '82 and the plebiscite.


Well, we, we had to decide. See, we, we, we wanted this to be, ah, a classic example of people selecting candidates, ah, this was a genuine draft. Ah, at the plebiscite we had six names left. And we held a plebiscite at Bethel A.M.E. Church. It was jammed, just utterly jammed. So, in essence what we did was to present those six names. We did not have the people, those six people there, but we just presented their names and the people voted. Once again, Harold Washington was far and away the number one choice**. So it became clear that African Americans in Chicago wanted Harold Washington as the major, as the only, really, Black candidate in 1983 for mayor. Well, ah, Harold was reluctant. He was really reluctant. Ah, and I said, "Harold, look, you, you won the survey. You know you've won the plebiscite. Now, what do you want?" So, Harold said, "Well, you guys are going to have to register some more Black people." In those days we just had few, relatively few registered voters. No way in the world we could have done much of anything with the number of Black registered voters on the rolls and Harold as an astute politician, he said, "You going to have to get me some more Black registered voters." So we said, "How many?" He said, "At least 50,000." Well, that seemed like a Herculean task, ah, but some things were happening which made it so much easier for us. Ah, the mayor then was Jane Byrne and our people had literally elected Jane Byrne because she passed herself off as a reformer and we thought we'd much rather have a reformer and we'd take a chance on a woman because the men had been blowing it. Ah, so we put Jane Byrne in but Jane Byrne quickly turned, ah, her back on those who believed in political reform. But she made a couple of extraordinary errors, so far as Black people were concerned. And on one, in one instance, she, ah, appointed two White women to the Board, having dumped two Black men, to the school board. And, ah, these were two strong Black men, which is, I presume why she dumped them. And the White women that she put on the Board were racist. One of them was an avowed racist. She was a, a member of what was called, the Bogan Broads, they named themselves, the Bogan Broads. A section of Chicago is known as Bogan and it's a very racist section of town. There was a permissive transfer, ah, plan going on where our kids were bused into White schools and the Bogan Broads would meet our little 2 and 3, second and third graders and throw eggs at them and, and yell at them and scream and just harass them terribly. But one of these woman, one of these women was a Bogan Broad named to the School Board. The other woman who was named was not quite as overt a racist but we certainly considered her a racist. At any rate she just, Jane Byrne just energized the Black community with these two, ah, ah, appointments. She also did re- much the same thing in naming members to the Board of, ah, Chicago Housing Authority of public housing. She changed literally the complexion of the board, the board was majority Black. She switched it around so it became majority White. And of course Black people just, just hit the ceilings. Ah, so what this did was to politicize, help us politicize Black people. So when Harold said that, you know, we had to get 50,000 registered voters. We said, OK, we'll, we'll, we'll, we'll go after it.