BHM 2018 #10: Fifty Years of Black Mayoral Leadership

The end of the month is upon us and there were a few more things I wanted to do, but did not have the energy. I wanted to do more of the Congresscritters, I wanted to look at Federal Judges. But I only have time for one more. I thought it was important to look at black mayors because of the incredible power they have wielded, affecting the lives of thousands and even millions of people. It turns out that the year 2017 marks the 50th year in which we have had black mayors in major US cities, and several articles have been written to commemorate this landmark. So, I’ve had some meat to put together a summary of this history. Enjoy.

The year 2007 marked the 40th anniversary of the election of the first black mayor of a big U.S city. Cleveland was the first with the selection of Carl Stokes as mayor in 1967. Gary, Indiana followed suit the same year with the election of Richard Hatcher, and the federal government appointed Walter Washington to become Washington, DC’s first black mayor as well. Later, Newark (Kenneth Gibson), Dayton (James McGee) and Cincinnati (Ted Berry) followed suit by 1972, and culminated with the elections of Tom Bradley (Los Angeles), Maynard Jackson (Atlanta) and Coleman Young (Detroit) in 1973. The decade that followed Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination was as tumultuous as they come for America’s largest cities. That period, well remembered by those who lived it as a time of particularly strong urban and social tensions, coincided with the downward slide in momentum of the Civil Rights Movement and the subsequent rise of the Black Power Movement. Older adults likely remember the period well: urban riots, fights over school busing, Affirmative Action battles, efforts to eliminate long-entrenched policies like blockbusting and redlining. Skyrocketing crime, heated debates on the inequity of public services, and the development of a new, rapidly expanding land called “suburbia” that was looking very appealing to a growing number of city residents.

The of the first 8 cities, Cleveland, Gary, Newark and Detroit became stigmatized in a way that few have been able to recover from. A negative narrative was developed about most of them that stuck, despite considerable efforts to dispel them. Cities that elected “first black mayors” after the Black Power Era, during a period of relative calm, were able to adapt as the political skill set grew in the African-American community. However, the Black Power Era’s near-toxic combination of heightened white racism, black disenfranchisement and disillusionment — and ill-prepared black political leadership — accelerated the downfall of these select cities.

If anyone doubts the impact of electing an African-American mayor during the racially tumultuous late ‘60s-early ‘70s era, examine the general perceptions that formed of the cities during that period and have endured ever since. Newark and Detroit, already tainted by the aftermath of urban riots, were effectively shunned by white residents after the elections of their first black mayors. Cleveland may have been headed down the same path after the election of Carl Stokes in 1967. But Stokes chose not to run for a third two-year term as mayor, leaving a wide open field. Stokes was followed by three consecutive white mayors — Ralph J. Perk, Dennis Kucinich and George Voinovich — before the election of the city’s second black mayor, Michael White, in 1990. Atlanta touted itself as the “City too busy to hate” in the ‘70s, but Maynard Jackson’s 1973 election coincided with rapid white flight out of the city, at the same time that Sun Belt migration from the north was strengthening the suburban base. In Washington, DC, black political empowerment there was often wrapped up in the controversy of federal political representation for the District. Mayors in the District were federally appointed until Walter Washington was elected mayor in 1975.

Taking a long historical view, it’s clear that the people who became first African-American mayors beginning in the late ‘60s and continuing through today held different views, developed different paths to victory and methods of governance, and had differing perceptions of their skills among their constituents. First black mayors could dependably rely on a supermajority of black votes in their favor — and an equally large supermajority of white votes against them. Mayors elected through about 1975 were often activists straight from the Civil Rights Movement, and were looking for ways to turn the movement into actual political power.

The group of black mayors that followed them, from about 1975 to 1990 or so, had more distance between them and the Civil Rights Movement and were less concerned about implementing movement politics; they were more concerned about developing the kind of coalition that could get them elected and help them win legislative victories once in office. The third group of “first black mayors”, coming after about 1990 and continuing through today generally came to terms with a different demographic landscape in most major American cities.

Of the 100 largest cities in the country, 39 have had elected black mayors. In the year 2007, Gary, Detroit, Birmingham, Baltimore, Memphis, Atlanta, Cleveland, Newark and DC, all with populations over 250,000, and all having over 50% black populations, have had black mayors. In 2002, 57.1% of black mayors served in cities that did not have a black majority population. Philadelphia, Durham and Greensboro, NC, Jacksonville, Columbus, OH, Sacramento (black population 14%) and Wichita (black population 11%) also have. Things have really changed – black politicians are building non-black coalitions. As Houston mayor, Sylvester Turner, described in his State of Black America essay, leading in this current time requires that Black mayors are “nimble and strategic in their approach to leading our cities.” Younger white residents without the racial grievances of their parents or grandparents are returning to cities, and Hispanics are rapidly increasing in numbers. Anyone who would attempt to become a “first black mayor” in that environment would have to develop an appeal that goes beyond racial boundaries.

“To be an African-American mayor leading a city in the 21st century is not about “power” but about “possibilities.” With more than 470 African-American mayors leading cities across the United States, the lens of our leadership is shaped from our own personal experiences. Together, we collectively bring a perspective that allows for a spectrum of possibilities.”

— Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston, TX, “The Role and Obligations of African-American Mayors in the 21st Century,” State of Black America, May 2017

Wikipedia did an interesting list of “black mayoral firsts” and I thought I would share their list. You can see the huge gap between 1888 and 1964. And you can see the growing trend since 1975. In the article I read, it was interesting to note that in some cases, there was extensive gerrymandering, such that even with a black mayor, a white city council could block every turn, as could an elected white police commissioner. This needs to be a notice to us that with the 2020 Census coming up, it is critical that we have elected officials who will keep our political territories balanced, so that we can have meaningful representation.
So, here is the list.
1860s
1868
1. First African American elected mayor of a U.S. town: Pierre Caliste Landry, Donaldsonville, Louisiana

1869
2. First African-American mayor of Maryville, Tennessee: W. B. Scott
1880s

1888
3. First African-American mayor of a predominantly white U.S. town, and of a Western U.S. town: Edward Duplex, Wheatland, California

1960s
1964
4. First African-American mayor of a U.S. city: George D. Carroll, Richmond, California
1966
5. First African-American mayor of a U.S. city: Robert C. Henry, Springfield, Ohio (appointed by city commission)
6. First African- American mayor of a U.S. city: Floyd J. McCree, Flint, Michigan

1967
7. First Elected (1967) African-American mayor of a large U.S. city: Richard G. Hatcher, Gary, Indiana
8. First African-American mayor of a large U.S. city: Carl Stokes (Cleveland, Ohio)
9. First African American appointed mayor of Washington, D.C.: Walter Washington (see also: 1975)
10. First African American elected mayor of Ypsilanti, Michigan: John Burton

1968
11. First African American elected Mayor of Montclair, New Jersey: Matthew G. Carter
12. First African-American mayor of a Kentucky city: Luska Twyman, Glasgow, Kentucky
13. First African American elected mayor of a predominantly white southern city: Howard Nathaniel Lee, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
1969
14. First African American elected mayor of a Mississippi city: Charles Evers, Fayette, Mississippi

1970s
1970
15. First African American elected mayor of Newark, New Jersey: Kenneth A. Gibson
16. First African American elected mayor of Dayton, Ohio: James H. McGee
17. First African American appointed mayor of Wichita, Kansas: A. Price Woodard
18. First African-American elected mayor of Salina, Kansas: Robert C. Caldwell

1971
19. First African American appointed mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan: Lyman Parks (see also: 1973)
20. First African-American mayor of Englewood, New Jersey: Walter Scott Taylor

1972
21. First African-American mayor of Tallahassee, Florida and first African-American mayor of a state capital: James R. Ford
22. First African-American mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio: Ted Berry

1973
23. First African American elected mayor of Detroit, Michigan: Coleman Young
24. First African American elected mayor of Raleigh, North Carolina: Clarence Lightner
25. First African American elected mayor of a major Southern city: Maynard Jackson, Atlanta, Georgia
26. First African American elected mayor of a major Western city: Tom Bradley, Los Angeles, California
27. First African-American woman mayor: Lelia Foley-Davis, Taft, Oklahoma
28. First African-American woman mayor of a major satellite city: Doris A. Davis, Compton, California
29. First African American elected mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan: Lyman Parks (see also: 1971)

1974
30. First African American elected mayor of Waco, Texas: Oscar Du Conge

1975
31. First African American elected mayor, and first elected mayor, of Washington, D.C.: Walter Washington (see also: 1967)

1977
32. First African-American mayor of Richmond, Virginia: Henry L. Marsh (Note: elected from within nine City Council members; changed to general election in 2003)

1978
33. First African American elected mayor of Oakland, California: Lionel Wilson
34. First African American elected mayor of New Orleans: Ernest Nathan Morial
1979
35. First African American elected mayor of Birmingham, Alabama: Richard Arrington, Jr.

1980s
1981
36. First African American elected mayor of Camden, New Jersey: Randy Primas
37. First African American elected mayor of Spokane, Washington: James Everett Chase
38. First African American elected mayor of Plainfield, New Jersey, and first African American elected mayor in Central New Jersey: Everett C. Lattimore
39. First African-American mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas: Charles E. Bussey Jr.

1982
40. First African American appointed mayor of Memphis, Tennessee: J.O. Patterson, Jr.

1983
41. First African American elected Mayor of Chicago: Harold Washington
42. First African American elected mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina: Harvey Gantt
43. First African American elected Mayor of Flint: James Sharp

1984
44. First African American elected Mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey: James L. Usry
45. First African American elected Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Wilson Goode
46. First African American elected mayor of Portsmouth, Virginia: James W. Holley, III

1985
47. First African American elected mayor of Mount Vernon, New York, and first African American elected mayor in New York state: Ronald Blackwood

1986
48. First African American and first woman mayor of Newport News, Virginia: Jessie M. Rattley

1987
49. First African American woman elected mayor of a major city Hartford, Connecticut: Carrie Saxon Perry
50. First African American appointed mayor of Baltimore, Maryland: Clarence H. Burns
51. First African American elected mayor of Tacoma, Washington: Harold Moss
52. First African American woman and first woman mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas: Lottie Shackelford

1988
53. First African American elected mayor of Baltimore, Maryland: Kurt Schmoke
54. First African American elected mayor of Hempstead, New York: James A. Garner

1989
55. First African American elected mayor of New York, New York: David Dinkins
56. First African American elected mayor of New Haven, Connecticut: John C. Daniels
57. First African American elected mayor of Richmond, California: George Livingston
58. First African American elected mayor of Rockford, Illinois: Charles Box
59. First African American elected mayor of Seattle, Washington: Norm Rice
60. First African American succeeds to the office of mayor of Minden, Louisiana, via recall of his predecessor: Robert T. Tobin

1990s
1990
61. First African American elected Mayor of Trenton, New Jersey: Douglas Palmer
62. First African American elected mayor of New Bern, North Carolina: Leander R. “Lee” Morgan
63. First African American elected Mayor of Seattle, Washington: Norm Rice
64. First African-American mayor of Lynchburg, Virginia: M.W. Thornhill Jr.

1991
65. First African American elected mayor of Memphis, Tennessee: W. W. Herenton
66. First African American elected mayor of Denver, Colorado: Wellington Webb
67. First African American elected mayor of Kansas City, Missouri: Emanuel Cleaver
68. First African American woman elected mayor of Washington, D.C.: Sharon Pratt Kellye U

1992
69. First African American male elected mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts: Kenneth Reeves

1993
70. First African American elected mayor of St. Louis, Missouri: Freeman Bosley, Jr.
71. First African American elected mayor of Rochester, New York: William A. Johnson, Jr.

1994
72. First African American and first woman elected mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota: Sharon Sayles Belton

1995
73. First African American elected mayor of Dallas, Texas: Ron Kirk
74. First African American elected mayor of Savannah, Georgia: Floyd Adams, Jr.

1996
75. First African American elected mayor of San Francisco, California: Willie Brown
76. First African American elected mayor of Monroe, Louisiana: Abe E. Pierce, III

1997
77. First African American elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi: Harvey Johnson, Jr.
78. First African American elected mayor of Houston, Texas: Lee P. Brown
79. First African American elected mayor of Des Moines, Iowa: Preston Daniels
1998
80. First African-American mayor of Jasper, Texas: R. C. Horn
81. First African-American female elected mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts: E. Denise Simmons
82. First African-American mayor of Hopewell, Virginia: Curtis West Harris

1999
83. First African-American mayor of Pineville, Louisiana: Clarence R. Fields (became interim mayor in 1999; was elected to a partial term in 2000 and re-elected to full terms in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014)

2000s
2000
84. First African American elected mayor of Columbus, Ohio: Michael B. Coleman
85. First African American elected mayor of Selma, Alabama: James Perkins, Jr.

2001
86. First African American elected mayor of Hattiesburg, Mississippi: Johnny DuPree
87. First African-American woman mayor of a major Southern city, and first woman to be elected mayor of Atlanta, Georgia: Shirley Franklin
88. First African American and first woman elected mayor of Southfield, Michigan: Brenda L. Lawrence
89. First African American elected mayor of Fayetteville, North Carolina: Marshall Pitts Jr.
90. First African-American female Republican elected mayor of Tchula, Mississippi: Yvonne Brown

2002
91. First African-American woman elected mayor of Dayton, Ohio: Rhine McLin
92. First African American elected mayor of Toledo, Ohio: Jack Ford

2003
93. First African-American elected mayor of Palm Springs, California: Ron Oden
94. First African American elected by citizens as mayor of Tallahassee, Florida: John Marks
95. First African-American elected mayor, and first elected mayor, of San Ramon, California: H. Abram Wilson

2004
96. First African American elected mayor of Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Kip Holden
97. First African-American mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Marvin Pratt
98. First African American elected mayor of Pine Bluff, Arkansas: Carl A. Redus Jr.
99. First African American elected mayor and first African-American female mayor of Waco, Texas: Mae Jackson[32]

2005
100. First African American elected mayor of Buffalo, New York: Byron Brown
101. First African American elected mayor of Mobile, Alabama: Sam Jones
102. First African American elected mayor of Asheville, North Carolina: Terry Bellamy
103. First African American elected mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio: Mark Mallory
104. First African American elected mayor of Youngstown, Ohio: Jay Williams
105. First African American and woman elected mayor of Greenwood, Mississippi: Sheriel F. Perkins

2006
106. First African American elected mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana: Cedric Glover
107. First African American elected mayor of Anderson, South Carolina: Terence Roberts
108. First African American elected mayor of Killeen, Texas: Timothy Hancock

2007
109. First African-American woman and first woman elected mayor of Baltimore, Maryland: Sheila Dixon
110. First African American elected mayor of Greensboro, North Carolina: Yvonne Johnson
111. First African American elected mayor of Wichita, Kansas: Carl Brewer
112. First African American elected mayor of South Harrison Township, New Jersey: Charles Tyson

2008
113. First African American elected mayor of Blue Springs, Missouri: Carson Ross
114. First African American elected mayor of Lancaster, Texas: Marcus Knight
115. First African American elected mayor of Mansfield, Ohio: Donald Culliver
116. First African American elected mayor of Sacramento, California: Kevin Johnson
117. First African American mayor of Festus, Missouri: Earl Cook
118. First African-American and first woman elected mayor of Cambridge, Maryland: Victoria Jackson-Stanley

2009
119. First African American elected mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi: James Young
120. First African American elected mayor of Freeport, New York: Andrew Hardwick
121. First African American and first woman elected mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, and first African-American woman elected mayor in Utah: Mia Love[38]
122. First African-American woman elected mayor of Brentwood, Maryland: Xzavier Montgomery-Wright

2010s
2010
123. First African-American woman elected mayor of Fontana, California: Acquanetta Warren
124. First African American elected mayor of Columbia, South Carolina: Stephen K. Benjamin

2011
125. First African American elected mayor of Jacksonville, Florida: Alvin Brown
126. First African-American mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee: Daniel Brown

2012
127. First African-American mayor of Ithaca, New York: Svante Myrick
128. First African-American mayor of Antioch, California: Wade Harper
129. First African American and first female mayor of Orrville, Alabama: Louvenia Diane Lumpkin
130. First African-American mayor of Phenix City, Alabama: Eddie Lowe
131. First African-American woman and first woman elected mayor of Gary, Indiana: Karen Freeman-Wilson

2013
132. First African-American mayor of Plano, Texas: Harry LaRosiliere
133. First African-American mayor of Meridian, Mississippi: Percy Bland

2014
134. First African-American mayor of Brunswick, Georgia: Cornell Harvey
135. First African-American female mayor of San Antonio, Texas: Ivy Taylor
136. First African-American woman elected mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana: Ollie Tyler
137. First African-American female Mayor of Teaneck, New Jersey, as well as the first African-American female mayor of any municipality in Bergen County, New Jersey: Lizette Parker

2015
138. First African American and first African-American woman elected mayor of Pearsall, Texas: Mary Moore
139. First African American and first African-American woman elected mayor of Conway, South Carolina: Barbara Blain-Bellamy
140. First African American elected mayor of Camilla, Georgia: Rufus L Davis II
141. First African-American woman elected mayor of Toledo, Ohio: Paula Hicks-Hudson
142. First African-American woman and first woman elected mayor of Flint, Michigan: Karen Weaver

2016
143. First African-American and first African-American female mayor of Midland City, Alabama: Jo Ann Bennett Grimsley
144. First AFircan American elected mayor of Norfolk, Virginia: Kenneth Alexander

2017
145. First African American elected mayor of Stamps, Arkansas: Brenda Davis
146. First African-American woman elected mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina: Vi Lyles
147. First African American elected mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota: Melvin Carter

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