In the 1960s, African Americans began being elected or appointed to mayoral positions following achievements Blacks made through the Civil Rights Movement, passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. These days, Blacks are mayors in more than 500 cities.
When Carl Stokes took office January 1, 1968, he was the first African American to head a major city government. As more Black mayors came on line, coincidently American cities declined, as did their industries. For the most part, Black mayors were given the helms to sinking ships. In the 1970s and ’80s, Midwest and Northeastern region cities became America’s “Rust Belt” as factories folded and critical jobs were outsourced to Mexico, China and Japan. This was also the time of “White flight” from large American cities that were plagued with gang violence and terrorism from crack cocaine distribution.
1. Maynard Jackson
Atlanta has one of America’s largest Black populations. Thirty years of Black mayors have done wonders for Atlanta. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, it was the place to be. The housing was cheap, the weather temperate, the social and business networks were poppin’, the elected officials Black and enlightened, and the opportunities limitless. When Jackson was elected the first Black mayor of Atlanta in 1973, it was only five years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. The late Jackson exemplified what a Black mayor should be. He was able to secure building of Hartsfield International Airport with mandatory minority participation for Black firms. Now, called “Hartsfield-Jackson,” it’s the world’s busiest airport. He had a hand in building the MARTA rail system, and various other public works projects that helped modernize the city. Later Jackson ran again to secure the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.The two, Barry and Jackson, proved to be the impetus for the nation’s two wealthiest majority Black counties, Prince George’s County, Md., and DeKalb County, Ga.
2. Marion Berry
The nation’s capital is actually one of the best places for African Americans to live. Barry’s strong support for Black-owned businesses is legendary; along with his massive government hiring programs, Barry helped build the District of Columbia into the nation’s largest Black middle-class. When he served on the D.C Council in 1974, Barry spearheaded the movement to require that all contracts considered by the District government for services, supplies, and development included a mandatory 35 percent participation for minority-owned companies. He then served as the city’s mayor for three terms until 1990. Noted among his many accomplishments – significantly increasing the number of D.C. government contracts awarded to qualified African-American businesses. The two, Barry and Jackson, proved to be the impetus for the nation’s two wealthiest majority Black counties, Prince George’s County, Md., and DeKalb County, Ga.
3. Lee Brown – Houston
Known as “The Father of Community Policing,”
Lee Brown who in 1997 became the first African American to be elected mayor of Houston, Texas. The good thing about this city is when other cities were abandoning affirmative action Houstonians went to the polls and supported it. Millions of dollars have gone to African-American firms here because of affirmative action. He was reelected twice to serve the maximum of three terms from 1998 to 2004. Houston is a sure enough “boom town”