Interview with Renault Robinson
Interview with Renault Robinson

Interviewer: Madison Davis Lacy, Jr.
Production Team: X

Interview Date: April 14, 1989

Camera Rolls: 1092-1095
Sound Rolls:

Interview gathered as part of Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965 to 1985,
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Editorial Notes:

Preferred citation:
Interview with Renault Robinson, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on April 14, 1989, for Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965 to 1985. Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of Eyes on the Prize.

INTERVIEW


QUESTION 1
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Tell me about your relationship with Harold. When did you first meet him? How did you get to know him?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Well Harold was a South Side legislator and I lived on the South Side all my life and we met because I needed someone who was Black who would sponsor a bill to help us attack the issue of police brutality throughout the State. We were really interested in Chicago. Harold volunteered knowing full well that, ah, he'd be castigated by Daley and his forces for doing so. And we got very close during that period. This was the middle '60s. We used to meet with each other at his house, at office, at his home in Springfield. Ah, he was a very helpful person, independent guy, um, and felt that what we were doing was right.

QUESTION 2
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

You guys knew each other all that time. You got to like one another, didn't you?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Quite a bit because we got to know each other. And, to that extent, I felt he was a mentor in that he could tell me a lot about the system. He came up in the Democratic party. He came up as a machine politician. He had been involved all of his adult life. That's all he did, was be a politician, that was his primary job. His other jobs were just ancillary to being a Democratic politician.

QUESTION 3
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Now you were with him too in the 1977 campaign, right?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Absolutely. During that campaign, well actually, it, it was a learning situation. We wanted to know what would it really take for a Black to run a citywide campaign. What would it take? What did you have to do? How did you develop the support? How did you handle the press? How did you get, ah, people to assist and help and participate? How did you raise money? We felt that the situation was one where we could train. We knew we couldn't win because Blacks were not prepared, but we didn't know how much they weren't prepared. That campaign taught us what we needed to know and paved the way for '82, '83.

MADISON DAVIS LACY:

All right, we'll stop down.



QUESTION 4
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Bilandic is now the mayor. Tell me about the snow.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Well, we started with what was no more than the normal snow and after a while there was an unusual accumulation. We had, what you call, a snow command in Chicago which was very efficient. If Daley didn't teach anybody anything else, it was be sure and get the snow up and be sure and keep the streets clean. Bilandic went on TV and made a lot of promises about what was going to happen with the snow because it was unusually high. It had paralyzed neighborhoods. It had closed schools and it made transportation impossible**. However the biggest snafu in the world occurred when decisions started to be made by department heads and people running agencies without coordination with the mayor's office. For one, they decided to skip all the stops on the rapid transit line and go all the way downtown and pick up White people and take them to work. Well, obviously this infuriated the Black community. Bilandic went on TV and promised to clean all the schoolyards out, the areas where kids play, so neighborhood people could park in the cleared school lots which were in every neighborhood and therefore be able to get out the next morning and get to work. However, they did it in the White neighborhoods and didn't ever get around to doing it in the Black. And there were one snafu after another. Jane Byrne was like, had no chance to win anything. Ah, but after these snafus people became so incensed, so angry, and then on election day, it turned out that election day was a beautiful day. The snow stopped. The sun shined for the first time in weeks and everybody rushed to the polls to register their disappointment with the system. And the system was crushed, albeit 15 and 16 thousand votes but yet and still Jane Byrne had won. We, we termed her snowflake. Her acceptance speech was made before total strangers because she had no committee. She had no workers. She had nothing. But everybody flowed into her headquarters the night of the election after it became apparent she was winning.

QUESTION 5
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

We have a roll out. Where are we going?




MADISON DAVIS LACY:

--a lot of material about what went down, the School Board according to-- I need some of the juice.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

OK, I'll give you some.


QUESTION 6
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

It's the Byrne demonstration and insults are starting. Tell me about it.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Well, everything was tumultuous. Day after day different kinds of things were happening between the CHA, the School Board and etcetera. One day, Jane called me into her office and said, "Renault, you are attacking the guy at CHA, Swibel, and I need him. Back away, leave him alone." I said, "I can't." I said, "This guy is causing the Black community and you one helluva of a problem." I said, "I'm going to go forward. That was our deal." But she said, "But I want to change our deal." I said, "I'm sorry, Jane, I can't change it." I said, "I'm going forward. Swibel's got to go." She said, "Renault, you're going to cause me any amount of difficulty if you don't back away from Swibel. I need him to run this city." I said, "Jane, he's bad for the city and he's bad for my people. I'm sorry." So we continued to force Swibel out of his chair. She tried to stack the board with White appointees to outvote me, to keep me from being able to force him out because the chairman was chosen by the membership. She tried stacking the School Board because of the same type of situation. She tried all kinds of things and they all backfired in her face. She had to hold on to the people who ran the city, the machine, and at the same time she wanted to try and pacify the Black community, the people who voted her into office, figuring that she had plenty of time to be able to get them back, obviously it didn't work.

QUESTION 7
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

All right, now you're talking to Harold, maybe daily, maybe every other day , weekly, whatever and there's a golden opportunity presenting itself. Describe the golden opportunities you guys saw and discussed.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Well, Harold and I talked daily. Sometimes every four hours, depending upon what happened, whether he was in Washington or Chicago in that he was a congressman and he traveled back and forth. The real issue with Harold was, did we have an opportunity to make Black people understand what was going on and what could happen. It had nothing to do with the incidents. Black people had been insulted every kind of way you can insult Black people. Over the years they had been insulted, daily, plundered by example after example and it tended to just wash over their heads and they didn't understand. They didn't do anything about it. They didn't, they cared but then they didn't care. It was like, well what can we do about this? And so Harold was saying, look if we're going to end up with people having the same reaction, we're not going to be able to pull it off**. And I said, "The difference, Harold, is that this time people know that the person involved is not the machine. The person involved beat the machine. And then joined him because they didn't know how to run the town." I said, "That means somebody else can beat them." I said, "That's the difference."

QUESTION 8
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Your focus was not originally on Harold though?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

No.

MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Tell me about that.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Focus wasn't on Harold because picking an individual was like the old theory of violating the crab in the barrel. I mean, Black people were not about to let one Black person be named mayor. I mean, that just wasn't their thing. So the issue of trying to pick one person out and say, "This is the guy and let's all go for him, was never going to work." The issue, first, was to get people to understand that they had to do something to demonstrate they had the capacity to win, which would convince them they had the capacity. Before you even talked about a candidate or anything else, and that issue then involved itself around voters registration. That was the only physical act that people could do that cost no money that would convince them that they could win the election because White people would have to certify how powerful they were. With an increase in voters registration rolls, Whites would then predict whether or not we could do it. And Black people believed what White people said, unfortunately. And so when they saw in the White press, "Well with this tremendous impact on voters registration taking place, if the Blacks carry it out, they have a real chance to win." We used the White media that traditionally worked against us to help us win the election.

QUESTION 9
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Now tell me the story around ChicagoFest. How did that go down from your perspective?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Well, it was simple, ah, ChicagoFest was a Jane Byrne situation. She felt that it was important to have parties and festivals to keep people happy. Ah, the old plantation mentality. Ah, she felt that if we had ChicagoFest, ah, had a big party, it would make White people happy. It would make Black people happy. Money could be made by the politicians and everybody would be happy. And we felt that, ah, that would be a golden opportunity to do something about it. But we didn't feel that way in the beginning. It was a lark. The Reverend Jesse Jackson was on a radio talk show, one Sunday morning, called Sunday Morning Live answering questions about the plight of Black people as he always in his traditional eloquent fashion. And somebody said, "Well, we ought to do something about this Jane Byrne who has insulted us with the School Board, insulted us with CHA" and went on and on and on. "And maybe we ought to boycott ChicagoFest which is her thing and let her know how dissatisfied we are. We ought to do something." And it was a statement out of frustration, no planning, no nothing. And Jesse reacted by saying, in his own way, "Well, maybe we ought to think about that. It might make sense. But I'll have to check with the community to see what they say because we can't do this unless everybody is going to participate." You know how Black people love parties. One thing led to another and the Black community decided, let's try it. And, with many of the Black leaders working in concert with Jesse, we had a successful boycott. The real success came when Stevie Wonder, a real star in the Black community in those days, decided he was not going to come and forego a fee of a quarter of a million dollars. Black people felt that well maybe we got something going and they stayed away in record numbers. Whites stayed away also fearing any trouble.

QUESTION 10
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

All right, now, everything is going down, forces are taking shape. Lu Palmer is doing his community political education classes. He conducts the plebiscite. Lead me up to that from your point of view with respect to your relationship to Harold and how Harold ultimately got there that night for that plebiscite.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Harold was totally against the plebiscite. He was absolutely against the issue of choosing a candidate before the Black community had mobilized, had understood what was at stake and had demonstrated their capacity and their willingness to do what was necessary to win the election. He had been through an election already. He knew what that was all about. It was always those few people with, go with a Black no matter who he was. And, but the majority of us were not ready to make that step. People believed in their vote and they wasn't going to throw it away. And a lot of people believed the voting process was irrelevant and weren't going to participate. If we didn't convince those two groups, we didn't have a chance. And so Harold knew that personality wasn't going to do that, it had to be issue oriented, so the people themselves felt they had something to gain by their own act. They had been involved with Black politicians and that had not given them anything because the Black politicians were all puppets to the Whites. So, they weren't about to follow some Black politician like a pied piper. And Harold knew that, and I knew it. And so, the issue of a plebiscite turned him off. This was being done though because people wanted to identify a leader. They felt it was necessary. Many people felt it was necessary. "Who is it going to be?" they said. "We got to have a, a, a, some sort of community reaction to people who are out there." But Harold was totally against it and I must admit I was too. What happened though was that the thing caught on. The plebiscite the day it occurred, ah, Harold had let everybody know he wasn't going to show and he wasn't going to participate. They wanted Harold to participate because at that time he was very popular as a congressional candidate running for re-election. People felt that, ah, Harold had to be there because he was the prime guy to be the candidate. The others were just show. And with Harold not attending it was going to be a flop. The organizer, Lu Palmer was very upset that Harold was not going to attend, and said he would give a very negative speech if he didn't. In the end we had spotters in the, in the place and we felt that because of the crowd, because of the, the inertia that Harold had to come. It took a lot of doing to get Harold to show up there and only after a prearrangement between myself and Lu that Harold would not be forced to declare his candidacy, did Harold finally agree to show, and, with great reluctance he came and made one helluva speech, absolutely electrifying speech**. Turned everybody on in the place, they were stomping and screaming and yelling and right afterwards he walked right out because he was still very angry with Lu because he felt Lu was Blackjacking him, forcing him into a corner he didn't want to be in. And I felt, quite frankly, that it was a mistake because we needed to first get people to act on their own out of self interest before we directed attention to an individual.

MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Let's stop down here. OK. How are we doing?


QUESTION 11
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Minute and a half. The day of the plebiscite which was a Sunday--


RENAULT ROBINSON:

The day of the plebiscite which was a Sunday afternoon Harold was making his rounds, making speeches about running for congress. We had people at the fair and the fair had gotten tumultuous. I went over there myself to see because I knew Harold said he was not coming, absolutely not coming and that was the end of it, period, and don't ask him to come. I went over there so that I could get a feel for what was going on. I was amazed at what I saw. I knew electricity was in the air. I called Harold in the car and I said, "You got to come." He said, "I'm not coming over Renault, I told you, I'm just not coming. I told you what I feel about this thing. That's it." I said, "Harold you got to come. You got to come." And we talked back and forth and back and forth and finally I convinced him to come over. He would not be put in a corner. He would not be jammed up against the wall by Lu Palmer and he would not have to declare his candidacy for mayor. He said, "I'm running for congress. I must. A politician's job is to win the office he's after, not fake at that and run for something else."

MADISON DAVIS LACY:

We got roll out? Where are we at?





QUESTION 12
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Harold comes into the hall, what happens?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

It was incredible. People jumped to their feet. Harold strode down the aisle. It went, the place went wild. You got to understand that there were a number of people there to speak that day, all in their own right, community leaders and etcetera who had been chosen by Lu Palmer to participate. But it was obvious what the sentiment of the crowd was. It was Harold. It was Harold. It was Harold. Harold's expression of seriousness and bitterness went away and his face sparkled. By the time he got to the lectern he was a different person. His speech was incredible because he had no speech when he walked into the door. He gave a speech that told people that they had to have hope. That, to win, it took something other than having an individual. To win, it took a process. To win they had to get their friends, relatives, children, and others to register to vote, that the key to this whole thing was to register to vote. We had no chance of winning if we couldn't register and vote. And he harped on that theme and that did it. After that was over, the registration process was on in earnest. Harold won by the largest margin of anybody that has ever run for congress in the first congressional district.

QUESTION 13
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Now, later that night all of you folk gathered at Lu Palmer's basement, according to him. What went down. Tell me from your perspective what happened.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Well, at first, Lu had called a meeting of a number of close people that he felt were both involved in the movement and both knew Harold to talk about what we were going to do about Harold's reluctance to run, Harold's reluctance to campaign for mayor, Harold's reluctance to declare that he was in it. I was there with of course the point of view that Harold had because I supported it and thought it was right. The others felt that they needed a crutch, my words, "We need somebody that we can pin our hopes and hang our ambitions on." They felt we couldn't get people to register without a candidate. I felt we could. Harold felt we had to. The thing was degenerating into, "Well, we're going to have to find another candidate," and a whole lot of other garbage. I felt we should call Harold and get Harold over to the meeting. Harold, of course, did not want to come to the meeting because he was absolutely angry at Lu because he thought Lu was trying to put him in a position which would cause him one, to possibly lose the congressional race and two, to not be in a position to get the registration figures that we were looking for, by basing it on personality, that too many people wouldn't participate. Too many people didn't even know who Harold was. So consequently, Harold finally came to the meeting, after again, more coaxing, but said that if an argument started, he would walk out and that would be the end of it. Well, Lu Palmer promised and swore that there would be no argument and no badgering of Harold. But as soon as Harold hit the door, two seconds later, Lu was badgering him. It erupted into a brawl. Harold became visibly angry at what was going on and said he wasn't running for anything and that was that and started to walk out. We were able to sit Harold back down and say, "If you were to run, what would it take to show you that people were really serious?" And this was of course part of a prearranged proposition. He said, "Fifty thousand, ah, new registrants and a hundred thousand dollars." "Fine," then we let Harold go. I stayed and worked through how we were going to accomplish that**. The rest is history.

QUESTION 14
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Now when you went to see, tell me how, about that conversation you had with Ed Garner when you went to see him at Soft Sheen.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Well, I was in the midst of, ah, fund raising campaign for my organization, The Afro American Police League. We always needed money because we were rattling bones with the police department and people scared to identify with us. So, we had to get money from quote, "angels," people in the suburbs, ah, big business, people who didn't care, and so forth and so on. One day I was riding down the expressway trying to figure out how I was going to pay my rent that month and my help and I heard on one of the radio stations that some nice gentleman had contributed some money to what I considered a worthy cause but not a popular cause. I said, "Hm." So, I picked up my car phone and called information and got this gentleman's telephone number, had never heard of him before. Called him and he answered the phone which was unusual because you know, we are always so important, we never the answer the phone. Ah, I asked him if I could come by and talk to him. He said yes. And I turned around the on expressway and went to see him. Ah, talked to him about our organization, all the things we were trying to do. And he said, "Is it really going to make a difference?" I mean, are you, "Do you think you're going to make a difference? What really would make a difference?" I say, "Obviously politics would make a difference." I said "We could control our destiny if we had people in the right elected position who had the administrative authority to dictate change, instead of us standing on milk crates, picketing and screaming." He said, "What would it take to do that?" I said, "A voters registration campaign." He said, "But those things never work." I said, "True, but we could make it work." He said, "Well, how?" We got into a long conversation about methods and this and that and finally he said, "Well, let me call in my wife and my son." Who, at the time, I didn't know how integral they were to his company. But they're, it's a family run business. They all came in. They listened to my spiel and he wrote out a check for five thousand dollars. He said, "I want to help. I want to participate. And I'll offer my company, my staff, everything to back this effort." And I said, "Great, I'll take you up on it." And that was the beginning of the historic voters registration campaign. Gardner made his money off of hair products and the way he got people to buy them was through the media, through the media that Black people used, radio, not TV, not newspaper but radio. I picked up on that. Realizing that the only thing that was common to all of us, rich, poor, middle-class, was that radio. And consequently we de--decided to use that medium as a way of subliminally getting our message out to Blacks. "Register and vote." We used jingles, messages, disc jockeys, everything we could. In between records, we used record stars. We used popular people. We used talk show programs. Everything we could to reinforce the message. We even created a special jingle which matched the rhythm of the times that said, "You've got to register and vote." Ultimately it all worked.

MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Stop down. Great. You blew through several questions. I liked how you segued into the media business, because it came flowing and it saved me the, oh, thank you very much, thank you very, very much.

MADISON DAVIS LACY:

I think we have the voice we need for the plebiscite tale, and the Gardner tale, he does mention Gardner's name in the second part. You caught the CHA part at the begriming, when he was talking about the conversation with Byrne--



QUESTION 15
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

OK, Tell me the story about that CHA protest, one day at CHA.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Well, Jane Byrne had decided finally because they took a head count and there was only person wavering which would have given me authority to take over the Board as chairman. So, in order to prevent that from happening because the community was pressuring this one Black woman, they decided to quickly add new Board members. And so they decided to add three White board members, which of course would take the ability for me to take over the board, out of my hands. A protest developed as a result of that because the Black community saw a clear line of the mayor's hand saying, "I'm not going to let Black people control their own destiny, even in public housing. I'm going to put three White people in here to do it for you." And it was a horrendous outcry. The day of the confirmation hearings in City Council, the, the Council was stormed by literally hundreds of protesters. They all came into the Council and interrupted the proceeding, the testimony by the people who were candidates. It was tumultuous. People were arrested. They had to put up barricades. It was wild. But, of course, the City Council approved all three of them anyway. What happened though was that we said, "This is exactly what we needed. This shows Black people, unless we register to vote, we have no chance of ever overturning this kind of oppression."** So it became a way, where when a reporter asked me when it was over, "Commissioner, did you lose this fight today? I mean they made all these people anyway?" I said, "We may have lost that one. We may have lost the battle. But I think they lost the war."

MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Stop down. That's good.





QUESTION 16
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

In these stages what was Jesse's dynamic in all of this?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

You got to understand. Jesse Jackson is a mobilizer, a person who can take an issue and excite the populace about the issue and in this instance, Jesse knew this was a live issue. It gave people an opportunity to do all the things he had talked about. Take the bull by the horn and make things happen. So Jesse was critical to this whole process because he had a forum, he knew how to generate concern around the issues and Jesse was good at making people understand one and one was two.



MADISON DAVIS LACY:

OK, tell me again, Jesse's role and dynamic doing this.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Jesse was able to mobilize public opinion around the issue. Jesse had a forum. People attended that forum from all walks of life. When the issue was something that touched all of us. He could talk about brutality. He could take about housing. He could talk about the schools. He could talk about any issue and bring people to the attention of that issue. And he did the same thing in voters registration. Jesse was an integral and important part of Harold's ability to become mayor.

QUESTION 17
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Go forward in time. I mean, we're now, Harold has decided to run or he's going to run or he's running. How did that go down? Tell me about that.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Harold never decided that he was going to run. Harold, the last thing Harold said to me was he wasn't going to run. Harold was reluctantly drug into the ring and I took his hat off his head and tossed it out there. I arranged to have an article placed in the Chicago Tribune, front page, headline, that said, "Harold Washington Declares." Also arranged to have a op-ed column, which is opposite the editorial page, which talked about the rationale of why he could win. And I had a third news article in the newspaper that same day that also gave additional rationale. All of these were to hit at the same time announcing his candidacy because he refused to do it. He flatly refused to announce that he was running for mayor. The night before we had the articles printed there was a huge meeting of Black community leaders at Robert's Motel, because they were saying, "If Harold won't run, we got to pick an alternative." And I sat there knowing that the next day this article was going to come out and also knowing that Harold was going to be shocked, that he had been thrown out there, but realizing full well, knowing his personality, he wouldn't pull back. He was mad at me but, it worked. But he never, on his own, decided or made a decision conscious or otherwise that he was going to run.

QUESTION 18
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Now, at that point, did he make you his campaign chairman?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

No, he didn't make, I was already, I was the campaign organizer.

MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Campaign chairman, did he make you a campaign chairman?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

No, he didn't. That was a role I assumed because I was in a key position in the minds of all the players and I was also trying to raise money, keep the support base in order, keep Harold at the trough, I mean all of it. So, by virtue of definition of my role, I became the campaign organizer. The role of campaign chairman or campaign, ah, manager were functionaries. The role of keeping everybody together, quelling disturbances, bringing people who didn't like each other into the same room, that was my role. My ability to get people to, to submerge their differences to work toward a common goal, was my strength in this thing and to keep Harold on line. Because Harold was not frantic for running for mayor, believe me.

QUESTION 19
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

So now, so it didn't really matter that the campaign moved from your offices in downtown?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Well, no, ah, it was in my office because there was no money and I had an office. There were no money to buy telephones. I had a dozen telephones. I had a staff. I had volunteers. So, we assumed control of the candidate in terms of providing him with security and etcetera. We were able to provide an office because he couldn't use his congressional office for that kind of activity, it would have been a, a violation of federal law. I was able to get people to provide money and support. I had already gotten, ah, Gardner to participate and other Black businessmen to participate. So, it became a convenient way to get things going. It was a nest to launch the effort. We all knew we had to grow out of my offices and we did. We raised enough money so that in January of '83, we were able to open up downtown and, ah, and from there we opened up, I don't know, a dozen offices, a dozen and a half throughout the city. And, ah, we were off and running.

QUESTION 20
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Tell me how Harold built bridges between the various communities?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Harold offered everybody a participatory role. Harold was not a dictator. Harold knew the damage that the machine had done to everybody. And Harold said, they're more people on the outs than on the ins, we're going to offer everybody on the out a chance to come in. Harold's was a politics of inclusion instead of exclusion. The machine was exclusion. You're not with us, you're out. With Harold was, "There are more out than in, all of you are now going to be in." Women are going to be in. Blacks are going to be in. Hispanics are going to be in. Liberals are going to be in. You know, working, every-day people, will not suffer because these others are going to be bought in. That was his message. "I will treat everybody fair. My community won't get no more than they got coming. And neither will anybody else. My administration will be mixed. We will serve everybody. I'll have Polish, Hispanics, and this and that and everything else, involved for the first time. We're going to make errors and we're going to make mistakes but we'll make them together."

QUESTION 21
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Well, now what about this business about one third, one third, one third? Tell me about that.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Well, I'm not sure what you are--

QUESTION 22
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

One third Black, one third White, one third Hispanic. That shows up in some of the literature, was that a--?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

That came along much later. I, I think in the very beginning his issue was, we're going to bring the outs in. It wasn't really that one third, one third, kind of thing when we got started.

MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Let's stop down here.



QUESTION 23
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

Tell me about Harold, the person like you'd like to remember him, a story if you can.

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Well, Harold was in many people's eyesight, an introvert because he stayed to himself, ah, he liked to read. He was intellectual and that's not a popular kind of person in the Black community. Ah, he was not that outgoing a person except with close friends. Harold stayed in a one-bedroom apartment, very small, kitchenette type thing. And, so when his friends came over, we were always crowded together on his couch or whatever, to talk about whatever we were talking about. And the place would be piled with newspapers and books and magazines. I'd say, "Harold, get all of this crap out the, why don't you clean this up, there's no where to move around." But that was Harold. That was our guy. And he always amazed us with some story about something and his grasp of political history which always amazed me. But, he definitely was not mayoral. He didn't have the presence of a mayoral candidate. He didn't dress like a mayoral candidate. He didn't have the attitude of a mayoral candidate. He didn't have the, the ego of a mayoral candidate. He was a real live person who you could become friendly with, you knew you could, you could attach yourself to him. He was strong in his sense of what politics was to the Black community because his father was in--involved and everything else. But he never got overly concerned with his self and his presence. And money didn't mean anything to him. That's the kind of guy Harold was, a good guy but no presence.

QUESTION 24
MADISON DAVIS LACY:

What has all this meant now? Remember we're staying with around the time of his election in '84, '85. Tell me what have we wrought? What have you wrought here? What does it all mean?

RENAULT ROBINSON:

Well, I think it means several things. I think first of all it shows that if people are determined to take their own destiny in hand and have some direction and some understanding of what it takes for them individually, individually to do to make it happen, and are convinced that it's going to be painless, one, they'll do it. Two, with the example of Harold, they know what's possible, because that was beyond everybody's wildest dream. Everybody had always been told, "If you do this, something is going to happen over her and we never seen it happen." Here, we, we told everybody if we tried it, if you did your own individual part it would work and everybody did and it worked. Then you add to that a common man who is precious, who wasn't selfish, who wasn't egotistical, who wasn't driven by money or personal fame or anything else, who was a hand-maiden, he worked for the people and rose to the occasion and became great because of the circumstances, not because he planned it. That tells us something. There's a future for Black people. There are a lot of Harolds out there. Nondescript individuals, as people told me, "Oh, Harold Washington is not mayoral. You're choosing the wrong guy. You're barking up the wrong tree. You got to have this and that." Not true. People will deal in honesty, sincerity, realness, instead of all the phoniness that most politicians exhibit. Harold showed Black people, not just in Chicago, but around the nation, that if you work on behalf of the community you can succeed, but you got to be honest because people can tell the difference. Harold was a once in a lifetime.

MADISON DAVIS LACY:

OK, we can stop down. Good. That's it. That's a wrap. Thank you very, very much.