Chicago Public Library Announces New Digital Collection of Mayor Harold Washington’s Speeches

Chicago Public Library (CPL) today announced the release of a new, digitized collection of Mayor Harold Washington’s written speeches, expanding their Harold Washington Archives collection as the former Mayor’s 99th birthday is celebrated on April 15th.

“I’m thrilled that CPL will be providing access to the speeches of one of Chicago’s most impactful and trailblazing leaders,” said CPL Commissioner Chris Brown. “Harold Washington’s powerful rhetoric left an impact on Chicago that we still see today in our city’s constant efforts towards equity and progress.”

Although few audio recordings of Mayor Washington’s speeches remain, the collection will feature written remarks delivered at a variety of events during his 1983-1987 tenure, including commencement ceremonies, policy announcements, and city council meetings. They provide insight into the daily goings on in Chicago during the so-called Council Wars era, but also found broader, national audiences as Washington traveled the country rallying Democrats to vote in the 1984 Presidential election.

Chicago Public Library has long held records and archives of Mayor Washington’s political life both online and through in-library use at the Harold Washington Library Center.

“This collection of speeches offers a rare glimpse into Harold Washington's deeply held views on many subjects, his values and his sense of humor, which is difficult to find in the other archival collections,” said lead archivist for the project Morag Walsh. “What struck me most was Washington's warmth and his optimism that differences could be overcome, even with his strongest opponents.”

CPL will also celebrate the life and legacy of Mayor Washington with two events this April. April 14th, author David Masciotra appears to discuss his new book on the life and legacy of a Chicago icon, Reverend Jesse Jackson, I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters. Reverend Jackson cites Mayor Washington as one of his main inspirations. Then, on Mayor Washington’s birthday on April 15th, CPL will host a panel of former Washington colleagues and collaborators to explore Washington's legacy and feature Chicagoans engaged in those areas of civic service.

More information Mayor Washington’s life and legacy can be found on CPL’s website and in the permanent exhibit dedicated to his life on the 9th floor of the Harold Washington Library Center. To find out about more digital CPL events, please visit