In 1967 Carl Stokes and Richard Hatcher were elected as mayors of Cleveland, Ohio, and Gary, Indiana, respectively. They are considered as the first African American mayors of major American cities. Together with Kenneth Gibson of Newark, New Jersey, Carl Stokes and Richard G. Hatcher, became the first wave of significant black mayors elected after the Civil and Voting Rights acts were passed. In 1973, Atlanta, Georgia, elected Maynard Jackson the first black mayor of a major southern U.S. city. By 2005, nearly every large U.S. city had elected a black mayor within the previous 30 years.
The Conference of Black Mayors
In 1972, a small group of Black mayors from several southern states met informally in Fayette, Mississippi, where they discussed the possible development of a program of mutual benefit to their respective communities. A year after meeting in Fayette, a second meeting of 15 Black mayors was held in Tuskegee, Alabama. Their discussions led to the founding of SCBM, the Southern Conference of Black Mayors. In 1974, 20 Black mayors gathered in Santee, South Carolina, and voted to officially incorporate the organization. The Conference of Black Mayors (CBM) was incorporated in 1974 as The National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM). Like their pioneering counterparts in major Northern cities, the thirteen mayors who founded the group were also elected after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The group hired its first executive director and opened a headquarters office in 1974 in Atlanta, Georgia.
In 2011 the association’s Board of Directors voted to re title the organization as The Conference of Black Mayors (CBM) due to the international work and global alliances of the organization. Today, CBM represents over 650 black mayors from across the United States as well as other political leaders and elected officials of color across the diaspora, including Mayors of African descent from around the world. The organization recently hosted its 8th annual Global Summit of Mayors meeting in Cali and Cartegna, Colombia. Some 2,000+ leaders and mayors from around the world gathered there to work together to bring unity and identify best practices in addressing the local issues that impact the quality of life of the citizens in which they serve.
A Select Sample of African American Mayors
Andrew Young (born March 12, 1932)
He was a long term American politician, diplomat and pastor from Georgia who has served as Mayor of Atlanta, a Congressman from the 5th district, and United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Andy, as he is affectionately known in black movement and political circles, served as President of the National Council of Churches USA, was a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, and was a colleague, supporter and friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
After coming out of the Ambassadorship to the United Nations, Young held the office of 55th (2nd African American) Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, 1982“1990, 8 yrs.
Maynard Jackson, Jr.
(March 23, 1938 “ June 23, 2003)
Maynard Jackson will always be know fondly among black activists and political operatives as the Mayor who insisted that African Americans get a piece of the action. In 1978, Jackson signed a law requiring 25% of the city’s projects to be set aside for minority firms. The policy, which still operates today, made Atlanta the most hospitable place in America for black entrepreneurs.
Maynard Jackson served three terms, two consecutive terms from 1974 until 1982 and a third term beginning in 1990. Maynard became the first African American mayor of Atlanta in the same week that Coleman Young became the first African American mayor of Detroit.
Jackson’s term as mayor also coincided with the Atlanta Child Murders case in 1979-80. While Jackson is credited with giving Atlanta the motto of “A City Too Busy to Hate, black activists who were involved in helping to shine a national spotlight on those murders have never fully accepted the official view that Wayne Williams was ultimately responsible for all of those killings. Jackson played a prominent role in moving the city forward, preventing Atlanta’s future from being defined by those murders.
He helped arrange for the rebuilding of the Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, making it one of the top 3 airports today. The Atlanta airport was renamed the Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Maynard’s honor, shortly after his death.
Jackson was also mayor when Atlanta was selected as the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games,
Young was the longest serving mayor in Detroit’s history. He held office from 1974 to 1994 . Young became the first African American mayor of Detroit in the same week that Maynard Jackson became the first African American mayor of Atlanta.
Young served in the 477th Medium Bomber Group (Tuskegee Airmen) and as a remarkable FIVE term Mayor for a total of 20 years.
Young’s 1973 Mayoral campaign addressed the role of the violence inflicted upon a predominantly black city by a disproportionately white police department.
Young’s administration was controversial, and he found himself the subject of constant FBI scrutiny, constantly making national news.
His administration saw the completion of the Renaissance Center, Detroit People Mover, Joe Louis Arena, and several other Detroit landmarks.
Harold Lee Washington
(April 15, 1922 “ November 25, 1987)
Harold Washington was an American lawyer and politician who became the first African American Mayor of Chicago, serving from 1983 until his death in 1987.
Washington had previously been elected as a Member of the Illinois Senate and Member of the U.S. House of Representatives before his historic election as the 51st Mayor of Chicago.
Washington’s years in the House were marked by constant tension with Daley and the rest of the “Chicago Machine“.
Washington’s abrupt death did not sit well with the national African American activist and political community. Coincidentally, Bernie Epton, Washington’s opponent in the racially charged 1983 general election, would follow him in death 18 days later, on December 13, 1987 .