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April 12, 1983: Chicago elects its first black mayor

Washington gained the overwhelming support of the black community and substantial backing of Hispanics and white liberals

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Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.
Gulf News

1983 - Democratic congressman Harold Washington was elected Chicago’s first black mayor, narrowly winning the racially bitter race against millionaire Republican Bernard Epton. Washington gained the overwhelming support of the black community and substantial backing of Hispanics and white liberals to offset Epton’s advantage in ethnic white wards that broke from their traditional Democratic voting pattern. With 2,810 or 96.4 per cent of the city’s 2,914 precincts reporting, Washington had 640,738 votes or 51.5 per cent, to Epton’s 599,114 or 48.2 per cent. A Socialist candidate won a scattering of votes. Washington’s narrow victory capped a divisive, seven-week campaign that turned largely on race and his past legal problems.

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