Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Mayor Harold Washington & Another Election

BOND: How do you go from that, to thinking that you can run against an incumbent U.S. senator, a Democrat in a Democratic state?

BRAUN: I know. I know. Well, see, I was leaving politics. It's like that Michael Coreleone joke about, you know, I keep trying to leave the Mafia but it keeps pulling me back. That's what happened with my political career — Every time I got ready to leave, it just pulled me right on back in. After the reapportionment case, everybody told me I was going to get run out of town on a rail, but that didn't happen because Harold Washington was elected Mayor and when Harold, who was also an independent who was an ally, a political ally, when he got elected Mayor, he wanted his person to be his spokesman in Springfield, so instead of getting run out, I became Assistant Majority Leader, so broke down some more because that was the first time ever you can imagine somebody that looked like me was the Assistant Majority Leader, so I did that during Harold's first term and then I was ready to leave Springfield. I was ready to leave the legislature. I was ready to leave politics, actually, because my own marriage had begun to founder.

I was ready to come back home and go and to practice law and I also had a set of experiences. Another person who came at a pivotal time, a woman by the name of Caroline Cracraft, found me through Leon and Marian DuPre. Leon DuPre was a great independent activist in Chicago politics and she signed me up for something called the European Communities Visitor Program and essentially it's something sponsored by the E.U. that lets young people who are involved in government or whatever in the community, travel and get a view of the European community. So I traveled just as my marriage was breaking up. I wound up going and spending a couple of months just kind of backpacking around in Europe, and so that had an impact, particularly later, in terms of my view and where I wound up, particularly with regard to the Senate, so anyway, and I came back ready to go into a private practice but Harold prevailed upon me. He said no, you know. Bobby Rush, in fact, had a lot to do with this. Bobby said, "We don't want to lose you to politics. It's not time yet."

BOND: Was he an alderman by then?

BRAUN: Bobby was at the time, yes, he was an alderman and I'd known Bobby from the Panther days. In fact, Bobby and Fred Hampton -- I knew Fred Hampton. One of my closest friends in those days, Christina May, had had to go underground as a Panther and so, you know, I had -- we were all kind of generationally linked to each other. And so Bobby said, "No, you can't leave, you can't leave." So Harold had the idea of me standing for county-wide office and he said, because there'd never been a black, there'd never been a woman, there'd never been an Hispanic, nobody—I mean, it had always been just kind of the old boys' network for real, and so I told them, "Okay, well, I'd do it." You know, at that point, well, why not?

So, right after I said I would and, frankly, even as I was having second thoughts about doing it, Harold died and then it was almost like you had to because he had had this -- Harold Washington had a way with words, and he announced the Dream Ticket, and the dream ticket was comprised of women and men, black, white, brown, Asian, I mean we were everybody. It was the dream ticket representing the whole community, and then, like I said, within a couple of weeks, he was gone, not even that long. So I ran for and was elected Recorder of Deeds of Cook County which was a county-wide office, and, again, I was not -- you know, I wanted to do the best job I could where I was planted so I did what I could in that office, in that county-wide office and reformed the office and I think we did some really good things there.