Harold Washington: Selected Speeches Digital Collection

CPL's Digital Collections document life in Chicago through archival images, documents and artifacts.

Harold Washington at Bowen High School, 1984


Harold Washington was a gifted orator and spoke at many public and private events, especially during his mayoral administration, 1983-1987. While audio recordings of his speeches are scarce, many of the original scripts survive.

Mayor Washington and his press office carefully crafted his speeches to convey his political goals to his audience and to drum up support. Washington used his speeches to explain to the press and public what was going on in City Council and to bring attention to his administration’s achievements.

Washington spoke at many important events, such as the annual State of the City address, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, neighborhood forums and at high school and college commencements.

Topics covered are wide-ranging, including city budgets, anti-gang initiatives, Black history, racial discrimination, economics, housing and transportation. While most of the speeches focus on issues related to Chicago or Illinois, this collection also contains a number of speeches delivered to audiences across the country as Washington campaigned for the Democratic nominees for the 1984 presidential election.

The original speech scripts in this digital collection, as well as other speech scripts, are housed in Special Collections at Harold Washington Library Center.

Questions or concerns about rights and access to this digital collection? See our Copyright and Takedown Policy.

Acknowledgment of Harmful Materials

Chicago Public Library collects images, documents and other archival materials from different communities and time periods to preserve and make available the cultural and historical record. As historical objects, some of these materials contain harmful or disturbing content. CPL presents these artifacts as an unfiltered social record and does not endorse the views expressed therein.

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