Are America’s big-city black mayors a thing of the past?

By | August 31, 2017

Ceasar Mitchell can’t remember an Atlanta without a Black mayor. He was only 5 years old in 1974 when Maynard Jackson was sworn in as the city’s first in a string of Black chief executives. Mitchell has vivid memories of encounters with the larger-than-life Jackson as a child growing up working class in southwest Atlanta and then as an aspiring politician. There was power in “seeing leadership that looked like me,” says the city council president, who is running for mayor this year.

But that streak could well end at 44 years. The clear leader in the polls heading into November’s first round of voting is Mary Norwood, a compact white woman from the posh neighborhood of Buckhead in her second run for the job.

It would be a striking moment for the cultural capital of Black America, but also in line with a recent string of white mayors replacing Black ones in America’s biggest cities. Philadelphia, Detroit, Charlotte, Jacksonville and New Orleans all flipped from Black to white mayors in the past five years. Among the top 20 biggest cities in the country, only one has a Black mayor: Houston’s Sylvester Turner. “It is a growing trend, and if you’re interested in substantive representation, it’s one I think we should be concerned about to a certain extent,” says Christina Greer, political science professor at Fordham University. (Ozy)

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