New York City's First Black Mayor, David N. Dinkins, Dies Less Than Two Months After His Wife's Passing
Dinkins often called New York a “gorgeous mosaic” throughout his decades in political life.
November 24, 2020 at 4:50 pm
The historic mayor's death follows the passing of his wife, Joyce, who died on October 11, according to CNN.
Dinkins represented one of the peaks of Harlem's political power in New York City and he spent decades fighting for housing, economic equality and social justice.
But his term in office was also marred by openly racist attacks by his opponents and he was eventually unseated in a racially vitriolic campaign led by his longtime political nemesis, Rudy Giuliani.
Dinkins got his start in politics after serving in the U.S. Marines and getting his law degree from Brooklyn College in 1956. Throughout his career, he served in the New York State Assembly, as president of the New York City Board of Elections, and as Manhattan borough president in 1985, eventually unseating Mayor Ed Koch in the 1989 Democratic primary. He went on to narrowly beat Giuliani in the race, but his administration was almost immediately forced to address a series of crises.
David Dinkins, the first Black mayor of New York City, has died at age 93.— AJ+ (@ajplus) November 24, 2020
He is credited with investing in public housing and promoting racial harmony in NYC's "gorgeous mosaic," though he also expanded police. NY AG Letitia James said: "I, and others, stand on his shoulders." pic.twitter.com/O0LSvT3FAD
His calm, respectful demeanor made him beloved by many New Yorkers, but the relentless racial attacks on his leadership, often led by Giuliani, plagued his term in office. His efforts to increase housing, address the AIDS crisis and heal racial divisions were impaired by events largely out of his control. Elected in the same year as the infamous Central Park rape case and the killing of Black teen Yusuf K. Hawkins, Dinkins had inherited a city with a record high murder rate while the country was going through a recession.
Giuliani stoked racial animus against Dinkins and even led a police riot in front of City Hall where officers shouted slurs at Black politicians and blamed the mayor for racial strife in the city. Many online noted the eerie similarities between the battles fought by Dinkins and Giuliani and those between former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.