CHICAGO DIVIDED: The Making of a Black Mayor by Paul Kleppner

CHICAGO DIVIDED: The Making of a Black Mayor

Email this review


An attempt to put Chicago's 1983 election of Harold Washington in the ""necessary historical context."" Historian Kleppner's thesis is that the single dramatic event--the election of Chicago's first black mayor--must be seen as the climax of a long, slow process. Kleppner goes back to 1870 to demonstrate how the city's ethnic diversity played a key role in its politics. He quickly returns to the era of Richard Daley and examines, with solid statistical tables and telling examples, just how shabbily blacks were treated in Daley's long reign and the ones that followed. Federally-mandated integration of public housing projects and school districts were all but ignored or litigated endlessly. Daley's mayoral successors, Michael Bilandic and Jane Byme, are shown to be almost more insensitive than the Boss himself; Bryne brags about giving hams and chickens to blacks while denying them any real power in her government. When the mobilization of black voters finally occurs, it seems long overdue. We see, quite clearly, how the Chicago Democratic Machine went after white votes at the expense of blacks, who were increasing in numbers. The machine's mistreatment of its black constituency all but created the candidacy of Washington. The last chapters, which deal with Washington's Democratic primary battle and his election campaign against Republican Bernard Epton, form the dramatic conclusion and make the most interesting reading. Earlier chapters are slowed by too heavy scholarship for the reader who wants to know what happened in Chicago during this racially charged election.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1985
Publisher: Northern Illinois Univ. Press