Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Become a sustaining member and you could win a trip to Barbados!

David Dinkins, New York City's Only Black Mayor, Dies At 93


Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins has died. He was 93, the first Black mayor of the nation's largest city. He spoke with Michel Martin a few years ago.


DAVID DINKINS: Too many of us who hold public office think that the world is there for us, that the sun rises and sets on us. That's just not the case. You permitted me to serve you, and I owe you.


Dinkins was the son of a barber and a domestic worker. He rose in New York politics when the city was bitterly divided by race. In the 1980s, a white man became famous for shooting Black men on the subway. Five Black teenagers were accused of a sexual assault they did not commit.

INSKEEP: Dinkins talked of bringing the city together and, in 1989, defeated a white former prosecutor named Rudy Giuliani.


RUDY GIULIANI: I've just spoken to Mayor-elect David Dinkins.


GIULIANI: No, no, no, no.

INSKEEP: The Giuliani of those days silenced the boos and gave a gracious concession. And in a loud and angry time, David Dinkins was quiet and dignified. Wilbur Rich wrote a book on him.

WILBUR RICH: A lot of people thought that something was going to happen that was revolutionary, but he reassured them that he was not that type of person, that he was really - he was not the mayor of Black people in New York. He was the mayor of everybody.

GREENE: Dinkins called his diverse city a gorgeous mosaic. He oversaw the start of the revival of Times Square. The city remained divided, later admitting he should've moved sooner to stop a riot in 1991.


DINKINS: Certainly, I would've insisted sooner in Crown Heights that the police did a better job. I would not have tolerated that as long as I did.

GREENE: Dinkins served only one term. Giuliani ran again and defeated him in a divisive campaign in 1993. Afterward, Dinkins had advice to aspiring Black politicians.


DINKINS: You need to be appropriately motivated. If you want to be mayor or whatever because you want to serve people and make the lives of others better, then you will succeed if it's in you.

INSKEEP: David Dinkins did succeed, winning an office no Black person had served in before or since. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.