The 1980s showed a decade of ‘firsts’ for African Americans’ within politics. Over the decade African American men made an impact in American politics as two states elected African American mayors. In 1983, Harold Washington was elected Mayor of Chicago after representing Illinois in the U.S House of Representatives 1981-1983. Washington struggled with his election to Mayor but as the Chicago Tribune pointed out,
“Black community leaders and politicians sensed that the combination of dissatisfaction with Mayor Jane Byrne and unusually high numbers of newly registered black voters had made the time right for a major campaign for the mayor’s office in a city that was about evenly divided between black and white” (Davis, 2008).
New York City elected David Dinkins to become mayor in 1989, he was known as a nice guy who wouldn’t be able to keep up with the struggles of New York’s problems. While he was in office, he “instituted ‘Safe Streets, Safe City: Cops and Kids’ to lower crime in the city.
Other notable African American’s in politics are mentioned in PBS African American World:
1984- Jesse Jackson is the first African American man to make a serious bid for the U.S presidency, vying for the Democratic Party nomination. He will try again in 1988 but lose to Michael Dukakis
1989- General Colin L. Powell is the first African American to be named chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S military
1989- Ron Brown becomes the first African American person to head a major political party, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. (Bill Clinton later makes him Secretary of Commerce)