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Historical leaders (Harold Washington - Essay Example

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Historical leaders (Harold Washington

Harold Washington, who was the first black mayor Of Chicago, was one such leader. His election was one of the single most important events in the Chicago's long and illustrious history (Preston, 1983). Born on April 15, 1922, Washington ascended the throne of the Mayor in 1983, and served until his death in 1987.
Harold Lee Washington grew in the Bronzeville neighbourhood of Chicago, which at that time, was a major black residential area. In 1942, when Washington was 19, he was sent to the war as an Air Force Engineer. Originally he volunteered to be a part of the combat unit, but blacks were not considered qualified for that job. He served the Air Force for three years, and it was during these years that he understood the intricacies of racial discriminations and prejudices. This treatment also helped shape Washington's views on racial injustice and democracy.
In 1946, Washington joined the Roosevelt College, which proved to be the brooding ground for his political activities. Immediately after joining the college, he became intensely involved with the activities and societies in college. He chaired a fund-raising drive by students, and then was named to a committee that supported citywide efforts to outlaw restrictive covenants, which were the legal means by which minorities were prohibited from leaving their ghettos. (Levinsohn 1983). It was here that he truly developed his leadership skills. His cool and composed character was revered by his colleagues, one of them once said that he had a "remarkable ability to keep cool, reason carefully and walk a middle line". He always declared his political boundaries, and never indulged in extreme activities. He treated his opponents with mutual respect, and never insulted their ideology. With the opportunities found only at Roosevelt College in the late 1940s, Washington's time at Roosevelt proved to be a pivotal point in his life and the city's history. (Levinsohn 1983). Thus one can see that he resourcefully utilised every opportunity that Roosevelt offered to him. At a relatively young age, he had already equipped himself with the tricks of the political game, and this knowledge assisted him greatly in his future political career.

After earning his Bachelor's degree from Roosevelt College, Washington studied law at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. He continued his political engagements here, and was soon elected the treasurer of the Junior Bar Association, in spite of being the only black in his class. (Miller 1989). Soon after completing his professional education, Washington began working for Olympic athlete, Ralph Metclaffe in the offices of the third ward. While working under his ward boss, Washington began organising the 3rd Ward's Young Democrats Organisation on the sidelines. The Young Democrats pushed for various black centric resolutions and eventually gained popularity. Once again, Washington succeeded in walking the middle line, thus avoiding any sort of radicalism. Simultaneously, he also managed to make his and the YD's voice heard. Thus, by employing the tactics he had learned at Roosevelt, Washington continued to tread the political ladder slowly but steadily.

One must also remember that these were the 1960's, when The Civil Rights Movement was at its very peak. The African ...Show more

Summary

The paper discusses the life and achievements of Harold Washington, the first African American Mayor of Chicago. The paper charts his growth as a politician, and his psychological abilities that assisted him greatly along the way and established his role as a pioneer of black rights.
Author : jordonnitzsche
Historical leaders (Harold Washington essay example
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