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The Election Of Richard G Hatcher

3007 words - 13 pages

The 1963 historic March on Washington and the subsequent passing of some sweeping civil rights laws spurred African-Americans who had grown angry and frustrated over the slow rate of their social and economic progress. They were now finally prepared to realize their potential force in order to exercise a decisive measure of political control over their own lives. Consequently, several African-American mayors of major cities, especially in the industrial North, were elected opening the floodgates of other African-American elected officials throughout the nation, including city council-members, aldermen, school board members, governors and presidents. After winning the primary and the ...view middle of the document...

I.
First, this paper will examine the background of the first African-American mayor of Gary, Indiana and the political landscape of Gary prior to the 1967 election. Richard Gordon Hatcher was born on July 10, 1933, in Michigan City, Indiana, the youngest of 13 children to Carlton and Catherine Hatcher. His father worked manufacturing railroad cars for the Pullman Company and his mother was a factory worker. Though born blind in one eye, he excelled in high school in track and on the football field. His talent as an athlete earned him an athletic scholarship to Indiana University where he received his bachelor’s degree in business and government in 1956. During his years at Indiana, Hatcher became involved with the NAACP picketing the segregated campus cafeteria.[1]
His activism continued at Valparaiso University School of Law, Indiana, where he helped organize a sit-in at a luncheonette in Michigan City. After earning his law degree in 1959 and passing the Indiana Bar exam, he moved to Gary. Hatcher began practicing law in nearby East Chicago and also became deputy county prosecutor. However, he maintained a keen interest in politics. In the furtherance of his yearning for politics, he helped found a civic, social club in 1962 named Muigwithania (“the Move-ment” in Kenya) with a focus on political activism. The following year he became a city council member and then the city council president. In that capacity, he introduced legislation in housing and civil rights to aid the city’s poor. [2]
Moreover, through his legislative successes, Hatcher gained a loyal constituency among African-American voters, while undermining entrenched White Democratic interests.
His entrance into local politics was a new, “threatening” phenomenon coming on the heels of the massive civil rights protests throughout the nation, civil unrests in urban cities and tremendous television coverage of the struggles African-American people were experiencing.[3]

Since Gary was incorporated as a city, African-American citizens were routinely treated as second class citizens when it came to employment, housing, and education. For example, African –Americans came to Gary for various reasons which included search for better paying jobs and to get away from the cotton fields of the South, as well as in hopes of less discriminatory working conditions. Sometimes they were hired to replace White workers who had gone to war or they were recruited to work as strike breakers   Most were never able to advance out of their mediocre, at best, jobs.  Furthermore, African Americans were restricted to living in the midtown area of Gary and were not allowed to live in neighborhoods such as Miller, Glen Park, or other predominately White districts. Finally, the Gary schools were segregated. For instance, thousands of White students went on strike at Emerson High School in 1927 when black students attempted to attend the school. Thus, Roosevelt High School was built specifically...

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