We Want Harold!

  • Photo by Antonio Dickey

Barack Obama moved to Chicago in 1985, in part, because of a man he’d never met: Harold Washington. Obama would later tell the Congressional Black Caucus: “For those of you who recall that era and recall Chicago at that time, it’s hard to forget the sense of possibility that he sparked in people.”

Harold Washington ran for Chicago mayor in 1983 as a long-shot candidate. His campaign had little money and no powerful backers. He survived the toughest, dirtiest, most expensive municipal election ever to become Chicago’s first Black Mayor.

As mayor, Washington took on a city that was not only famous for its racism but also for machine-style political corruption: crooked contracts, political patronage and rigged elections. Harold pledged to open up city government to everyone. He would be “fairer than fair,” and spread the wealth to all corners of the city. Against huge resistance, he kept those promises.

We Want Harold! is in large part a historical documentary, but the story could not be more timely. As politicians on the national stage continue to struggle with coalition-building, as the city of Chicago continues to suffer from racial disparities, as a young generation of activists work to reclaim power for those who have traditionally not had a voice, We Want Harold! can help to further the ongoing conversation about politics, process and justice for all.

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