Black Political Power

August 12, 1983

Report Outline
Renewed Electoral Thrust
Blacks' Democratic Ties
Access to the Ballot
The Challenge of 1984
Special Focus

Renewed Electoral Thrust

Reviving King's ‘Dream’; Recent Victories

Tens of thousands of black Americans are expected to gather in the nation's capital on Aug. 27 for “The Twentieth Anniversary Mobilization for Jobs, Peace and Freedom,” also known as “March on Washington II.” The event will mark the 20th anniversary of a historic moment in the black civil rights movement. On Aug. 28, 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before 250,000 blacks and white civil rights supporters, attacked longstanding practices of social, economic and political discrimination against blacks in his famous “I have a dream” speech. Part of King's dream was that blacks would achieve political equality throughout the nation.

Although the anniversary march had been discussed for several years, its timing coincides with a growing push for black political equality. Thanks to such actions as congressional passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, obstacles to black voter participation and candidacy have eased, and blacks have made steady gains. But just within the past year, blacks have made some of their most notable advances. They gained three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982, giving them 21 in all, a record number. They picked up seats in many state legislatures, cast decisive votes for several white governors, representatives and other elected officials, and stirred talk of fielding a black presidential candidate.

The most publicized political achievement by a black was Harold Washington's victory in the Chicago mayoral election. Washington, concentrating his campaign on the black community that makes up 40 percent of the city's population, won the Democratic primary Feb. 22 with a plurality (36 percent) as his opponents, incumbent Jane M. Byrne and challenger Richard M. Daley, split the white vote. Then, on April 12, after a bitter, racially divisive campaign, Washington held on to win election as the first black mayor of the nation's second largest city, despite the defections of thousands of white Democrats to a previously little-known white Republican nominee.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
African Americans and the Civil Rights Movement
Jul. 22, 2022  Black Hairstyles
Nov. 15, 1985  Black America Long March for Equality
Aug. 12, 1983  Black Political Power
Jan. 18, 1980  Black Leadership Question
Aug. 15, 1973  Black Americans, 1963–1973
Nov. 26, 1969  Racial Discrimination in Craft Unions
Sep. 11, 1968  Black Pride
Feb. 21, 1968  Negro Power Struggle
Mar. 08, 1967  Negroes in the Economy
Jan. 19, 1966  Changing Southern Politics
Oct. 27, 1965  Negroes in the North
Jul. 21, 1965  Negro Revolution: Next Steps
Oct. 14, 1964  Negro Voting
Sep. 21, 1964  Negroes and the Police
Jul. 03, 1963  Right of Access to Public Accommodations
Jan. 23, 1963  Negro Jobs and Education
Mar. 25, 1960  Violence and Non-Violence in Race Relations
Aug. 05, 1959  Negro Employment
Apr. 18, 1956  Racial Issues in National Politics
Apr. 18, 1951  Progress in Race Relations
Dec. 17, 1948  Discrimination in Employment
Jan. 10, 1947  Federal Protection of Civil Liberties
Aug. 25, 1944  The Negro Vote
Jul. 01, 1942  Racial Discrimination and the War Effort
Mar. 25, 1939  Civil and Social Rights of the Negro
Jul. 22, 1927  Disenfranchisement of the Negro in the South
Campaigns and Elections
Campaigns and Elections
Civil Rights: African Americans