The Story of Chicago’s 1st Black Mayor Will Be Told in a New Limited Series From Fosse/Verdon Writer Ike Holter

Illustration for article titled The Story of Chicago’s 1st Black Mayor Will Be Told in a New Limited Series From Fosse/Verdon Writer Ike Holter
Screenshot: Youtube/Chicago Reader/Black Archives

Chi-Town, stand up!

The life of an influential political figure and Chicago’s first Black mayor Harold Washington will soon be headed to a screen near us.


Deadline announced today that Fosse/Verdon writer Ike Holter will pen the script for the limited series under Paylocity founder Steve Sarowitz and Justin Baldoni’s Wayfarer Studios. The untitled project will be based on the 1992 book Fire on the Prairie, written by Gary Rivlin. It will center around Washington’s inspiring and empowering political career in the 1980s and how he rose to the top despite the corruption that tried to take him down. More on Washington’s political legacy via Deadline:

In a move that echoes Stacey Abrams’ work in Georgia, Washington was able to win the Democratic mayoral primary by registering hundreds of thousands of new voters, including a coalition with Latino reformed gang Young Lords. This multiracial coalition helped replace a political machine put in place by former mayor Richard Daley and [Washington] beat incumbent mayor Jane Byrne and future mayor and son of Richard Daley, Richard J. Daley. Washington, who was besieged by issues including his tax affairs, was mayor between 1983 and 1987, when he died in office.

There would likely have been no President Obama without Washington as mayor, with Obama saying that he originally moved to Chicago “in part because of the inspiration of Mayor Washington’s campaign.”

And that’s not just a pleasantry. In fact, NBC Chicago 5 documented these sentiments back in 2012, citing an acceptance speech given by then-community organizer Barack Obama upon receiving the Harold Washington Award from the Congressional Black Caucus in the late ‘80s.

M.E. Barker and Scott Schwartz will produce the series along with Brandon Riley, who first optioned the book for development. Andrew Calof, Tracy Ryerson, Boldoni and Sarowitz are all set to executive produce on behalf of Wayfarer Studios.

There has been no word yet on a potential premiere date.



I was in high school when he died. It was a horrible, surreal day...happened around Thanksgiving. For us on the west and south sides, it was like losing a Malcolm X or a King.

They put televisions out everywhere in school so that we could watch. They let us go home if we wanted to. I had to ride from the west side to the south side, which was a long trip on public transportation. People were crying...hugging and holding each other. People prayed. He was an extraordinary man and politician. He definitely deserves this.