Culture

David Dinkins, First Black Mayor of New York, Dies at 93

Dinkins served as mayor in the early ’90s during a time when the city was battling against high rates of crime, homelessness, and racial discord.

David Dinkins, the first Black mayor of New York City has died. Dinkins was 93. 

On Monday evening he was pronounced dead at his home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed Dinkins’ death to The New York Times

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Dinkins joined the US Marine Corps as one of the Montford Point Marines after graduating high school, per CNN. He would go on to receive the Congressional Gold Medal in 2012 for their service. Dinkins attended Howard University, he graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s of science degree in mathematics in 1950. He later received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1956 and practiced law before choosing to enter the realm of politics. 

In 1966, he became a member of the New York State Assembly and served as president of the New York City Board of Elections from 1972 to 1973. His foray into politics began when he was a state assemblyman. He was then elected as Manhattan borough president in 1985. Four years later he ran for mayor and knocked out Edward I. Koch’s 1989 reelection bid during the primary. In the general election, he won narrowly against Rudolph W. Guiliani. 

Dinkins who was a Harlem Democrat was known for bringing his calm demeanor to public office as Koch was his polar opposite. He was seen as a candidate who would bring New York City to a space devoid of racial clashes while handling the city’s fiscal issues, and high rates of crime. Guiliani succeeded him as he only served one term. 

During his time in office, Dinkins set his sights on cleaning up Times Square and expanding the NYPD which led to the city’s crime rate dropping dramatically. He also prioritized affordable housing in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Harlem. Beyond these staples of his work, he also set out to address the HIV/AIDS crisis. 

After leaving public office in 1994, Dinkins became a professor of public policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. His lasting legacy is that he sought to dismantle racial discord, mass drug usage, and high rates of homelessness that were a part of his term. Dinkins is credited with calling New York a “gorgeous mosaic” of racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. 

David Dinkins is survived by two children and two grandchildren. His wife, the former first lady of NYC passed away on October 11 at 89.

Robyn Mowatt

Robyn Mowatt is a Staff Writer at Okayplayer where she covers culture, music, and fashion. You can see what's on her mind on Twitter at @robyn_mowatt.

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