The Multiracial Promise: Harold Washington’s Chicago and the Democratic Struggle in Reagan’s America

Univ. of North Carolina. Mar. 2023. 366p. ISBN 9781469673868. pap. $29.95. HIST
This book by historian Mantler (George Washington Univ.; Power to the Poor) takes readers back to Chicago in 1983, when Harold Washington became the city’s first Black mayor. Mantler argues that Washington’s coalition—comprised of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ activists, white progressives, elites, and working-class people—demonstrated how people of numerous backgrounds can unite and beat a city’s long-running political machine. The book showcases that locally and across the U.S., many people felt encouraged by the news of Washington’s win; they were optimistic about the future since his victory countered the harsh realities of then President Reagan’s cuts to housing, social spending, and punitive drug policies. The book utilizes a wide range of archival sources and oral histories of many Chicago-based organizations to re-examine Washington’s four and a half years in office and to explain the changes he made that many deemed radical. The author makes it clear that the lessons of Washington’s term were fraught with racism battles, legendary and powerful. Readers will benefit from this important story about Washington’s historic term as mayor, his untimely death, and the complex and gritty structure of Chicago politics.
VERDICT A well written narrative that will engage many readers, especially scholars, activists, and fans of political histories.
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