Kate's Reviews > American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley - His Battle for Chicago and the Nation

American Pharaoh by Adam Cohen
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's review
Aug 31, 2008

really liked it
Recommended to Kate by: A book store in Ann Arbor
Recommended for: Chicagoans, readers interested in the civil rights movement, political machines, urban issues
Read in August, 2008

This book explains how Richard Daley rose to become mayor and head of the powerful Cook County political machine. Daley and the machine used patronage jobs to ensure an army of workers who would help keep him and other machine politicians in office. His political power was stunning- there is no equivalent to it today. Daley controlled city councilmen, judges, and many Congressmen, which made it easy to get money from Washington for his city projects. (The book also explains how suburbanization, the civil service, and assimilation of Chicago's many ethnic groups took their toll on the machine over the years so it is no longer what it once was.)
It was fascinating to learn about the complicated relationship Daley and the machine had with Chicago's black community - Daley needed their votes, so couldn't be openly racist, yet he also needed the votes of white ethnics who supported segregation, so he couldn't support civil rights either. When Martin Luther King Jr. came to town to bring the civil rights movement north, Daley made life very difficult for him- two very interesting chapters in the book. American Pharaoh also details the sad history of public housing site selection and segregation in Chicago, and the famous 1968 Democratic convention and the "police riot" that took place.

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