Congressman Harold Washington campaigned in the 1983 Democratic primary to become Chicago’s first African-American mayor against two white opponents. The Chicago Defender hesitated to endorse him despite its history as a leader of the black press. Unlike some of its competitors in the black media, the Defender was slow to recognize that a progressive African American movement was gaining political momentum. The Washington campaign cared deeply about the Defender’s endorsement because it relied heavily on the city’s black media to strengthen its grassroots efforts in African-American neighborhoods. The Defender finally endorsed Washington only after his campaign put intense public and behind-the-scenes pressure on owner John Sengstacke and it became clear that Washington could actually win the primary.
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