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1st black alderman went to Congress

Oscar DePriest (1871-1951) arrived in Chicago in 1889, a son of former slaves. He was a painter and decorator. He would become the first black alderman in Chicago.

After beginning a career in real estate and holding several other public offices, DePriest was elected alderman for the Second Ward in 1915, 26 years after his arrival.

Breaking the color barrier in the Chicago City Council wasn’t his only achievement. In 1928, running as a Republican, he also became the first African American elected from a Northern state to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

As a congressman, DePriest championed anti-discrimination bills, many of which failed to pass, but he was successful in getting a measure passed that banned discrimination in the Civil Conservation Corps in 1933.

DePriest was succeeded in Congress by another African American in 1934, Democrat William L. Dawson (1886-1970).

DePriest died in Chicago on May 12, 1951.

Sources: Chicago Sun-Times Metro Chicago Almanac, The Electronic

Encyclopedia of Chicago and Black Americans in Congress

Matt Wilhalme

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