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   David Dinkins Papers, 1941-2017 [Bulk Dates: 1985-1993].

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); David N. Dinkins Papers; Box and Folder (if known); Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information


These papers comprise correspondence, organizational records and documents, speeches, public schedules, photographs and memorabilia relating to the public life of David N. Dinkins, civil servant to the City of New York for over thirty years and professor in the Practice of Public Affairs at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#1441
Bib ID:6058659 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Dinkins, David N.
Title:David Dinkins Papers, 1941-2017 [Bulk Dates: 1985-1993].
Physical description:102 linear feet (166 document boxes, 8 record cartons; 12 flat boxes, 5 index card boxes, 4 poster boxes)
Language(s): Collection is predominantly in English. Spanish, Chinese and Japanese indicated at folder level.
Access: This collection has no restrictions. This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.  More information »



This collection is arranged in four series:

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Scope and Content

These records originate from the office David N. Dinkins. The documents that comprise this collection primarily encompass the years in which David Dinkins served as mayor of New York City and Manhattan Borough President. The campaign for Manhattan borough president in 1985 and the mayoral campaigns of 1989 and 1993 figure prominently. The corpus consists primarily of correspondence, press releases, news clippings, memoranda, photographs, trophies, awards, diskettes, certificates, pamphlets, pins, drawings, paintings and caricatures. Photographs, drawings, and other ephemera that chronicled Dinkins term as mayor were later added to the collection, but were not separately accessioned.

Series I: Campaigns and Political Career, 1965-1994

This series encompasses David Dinkins early political career, his campaign for Manhattan Borough President, his 1989 and 1993 Mayoral campaigns, and his terms serving as both Manhattan Borough President, 1986-1989, and Mayor of the City of New York, 1990-1993. All four subseries are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries I.1: General, 1965-1986

Subseries I.1: General, 1965-1986, represents his early political career, holding documents from when he served as a representative in the New York State Assembly for one term, 1966-1967, President of the Board of Elections from 1972-1973 and City Clerk, 1975-1985. He was named Deputy Mayor by Mayor Abraham D. Beame (1974-1977), but was not appointed. Dinkins was also a founding member of the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus of New York State, the Council of Black Elected Democrats of New York State and One Hundred Men. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Association of the Bar of New York State. Materials from all of these organizations are represented here as well. The types of records included in this series are press releases, speeches, meeting minutes, organizational resolutions and by-laws.

Subseries I.2: Campaigns, 1965-1994

Subseries I.2: Campaigns, 1965-1994, documents David Dinkins campaigns for Manhattan Borough President in 1985 and both Mayoral Campaigns of 1989 and 1993. It should be noted that there is one file on Dinkins’ first electoral campaign for New York State Assembly in 1965. The bulk of material consists of campaign literature, fundraising events, and volunteers for the Committee for David Dinkins, endorsements by constituency, speeches with drafts, candidate questionnaires with responses, position papers, and strategies by groups, polls and accomplishments. Also prominent are congratulatory correspondence on primary and general elections. Notes of unidentified authorship can be found in abundance throughout this series.

Subseries I.3: Manhattan Borough President, 1981-1993

Subseries I.3: Manhattan Borough President, 1981-1993, is made up of primarily speeches and subject files. The subject files are organizations and typically consist of histories and general background information, newsletters and pamphlets. The topics of the speeches include, African-Americans, awards, Black and Jewish relations, budget, education, housing, and tributes. These records are photocopies with the exception of the organizational files.

Subseries I.4: Mayoral, 1989-1993

Subseries I.4: Mayoral, 1989-1993, is primarily press releases and public schedules. Highlighted topics include, Mayoral appointments and resignations, Safe Streets, Safe City, Charter implementation and revisions, mayoral and agency transition and Deputy Mayors new initiatives. The types of records found are press releases, memoranda, news clippings, and correspondence. These files are photocopies.

Series II: Memorabilia, 1947-2001

This series comprises certificates, awards, posters, original drawings, original prints, keys to international cities, caricatures and an album of drawings and poems dedicated to David Dinkins. These materials are arranged chronologically by format and size.

Series III: Photographs, 1941-1994

Individuals that figure prominently in this series are: David Dinkins, Joyce Dinkins, Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo, Basil Paterson, Charles B. Rangel, Lena Horne, Jack Rudin, Jesse Jackson, Edward M. Kennedy, Leon Bogues, Arthur Ashe, and Gloria Steinem. Many of these photographs are unidentified and undated. Three photo albums are included and have been left in original format to maintain context. These materials are arranged alphabetically.

Series IV: Audio and Visual, 1983-1993

This series contains VHS, Broadcast cassettes, audio cassettes, and U-Matic videocassette. The bulk consists of David Dinkins’ interviews on both radio and television. There are also promotional videos from companies soliciting advertising clientele. These materials are arranged chronologically.

Addition I: 2015

Addition II: 2017

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Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

This collection has no restrictions.

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); David N. Dinkins Papers; Box and Folder (if known); Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Material

Archives of David N. Dinkins, 106th Mayor of the City of New York, 1990-1993, New York City Department of Records, Municipal Archives.

Oral history interview with David Norman Dinkins, 2014, Columbia Center for Oral History Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed 2008-2009 Jennifer S. Comins

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion October 22, 2009 Finding aid written in English.
    2009-10-23 xml document instance created by Jennifer S. Comins
    2018-01-19 link to NYC municipal archives collection updated by Kevin Schlottmann

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Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
African-American mayors.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
African-Americans--Politics and government.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Ali, Muhammad, 1942-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Ashe, Arthur.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Association of the Bar of the City of New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Beame, Abraham D. (Abraham David), 1906-2001.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Clinton, Bill, 1946-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Clinton, Hillary Rodham.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Community Service Society of New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)--Race relations.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Cuomo, Mario Matthew.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
D'Amato, Alfonse.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Democracy--United States.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Election law--New York (State)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Elections--New York (State)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Ellis Island (N.J. and N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Gracie Mansion (New York, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Harlem (New York, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Harlem Urban Development Corporation.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Horne, Lena.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Jackson, Jesse, 1941-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Kennedy, Edward Moore, 1932-2009.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Koch, Ed, 1924-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
League of Women Voters of the City of New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Legal Action Center.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Legal Aid Society (New York, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Municipal government--New York (State)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
New York (N.Y.)--Campaign Finance Board.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
New York (N.Y.)--Politics and government.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
New York (N.Y.)--Race relations.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
New York State Legislative Institute.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Paterson, Basil A.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Political campaigns--New York (State)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Race relations.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Rangel, Charles B.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Representative government and representation--New York (State)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Sierra Club--Political activity.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Speeches, addresses, etc., American--New York (State)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Staten Island (New York, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Stein, Andrew J.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Steinem, Gloria.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Sutton, Percy E.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Voter registration--New York (State)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Voting--New York (State)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Wonder, Stevie.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

David N. Dinkins was born in Trenton, New Jersey on July 10, 1927. In his early childhood, Dinkins moved with his mother to Harlem, but returned to Trenton to attend high school. After graduating he enrolled in Howard University in Washington, DC. World War II erupted and his studies were put on hold when he served in the United States Marine Corps. After serving as a Marine during World War II, he went on to obtain his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Howard University in 1950. At Howard, he became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the nation's first intercollegiate fraternity for African-American men. After graduating from Howard, he married Joyce Burrows, a former classmate. They moved to Harlem in 1951 and in 1956 he graduated from Brooklyn Law School. Dinkins practiced law in New York City from 1956 until 1975, while pursuing a career in politics.

Joyce Burrows grew up in a very political family. Her father was Daniel Burrows, a former assemblyman and district leader. Burrows introduced Dinkins to J. Raymond Jones, the "Harlem Fox", known leader of Tammany Hall, the New York Democratic County Organization in the 1960s. It was through Jones that Dinkins became an integral part of the Carver Democratic Club. During this period he mixed and aligned himself with an influential group of upcoming politicians that included Charles Rangel, Percy Sutton and Basil Paterson. Later, this group of young and ambitious politicoes became known as the "gang of four".

In 1965, Dinkins was elected a New York State assemblyman. In this role he helped with the creation of the Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge Program (SEEK) in the City University of New York. SEEK assisted low income students with attaining a college education by helping them with basic education and counseling. As the program grew it became clear that many students could not stay in college without additional income. As a result, Dinkins mobilized the New York Urban Coalition and the 100 Black Men, organizations with core missions to educate youth through a variety of support services providing part time and summer jobs for students through agreements with private businesses.

Dinkins served as president of the Board of Elections from 1972-1973, successfully establishing guidelines that facilitated and encouraged wider voter registration. He convinced the legislature to allow voter registration by mail in New York State. At the same time, he convinced corporations, community groups, schools and unions to make voter registration forms readily available to the public. He went on to serve as city clerk from 1975 until 1985.

When Manhattan Borough President, Percy Sutton stepped down in 1977 to run for mayor of New York City, he encouraged Dinkins to run for the vacant position. Dinkins lost the first election to democratic candidate Andrew Stein, but won on his third attempt, in the 1985 campaign.

In 1989 Dinkins ran for mayor, defeating three-term incumbent Mayor Ed Koch, for the Democratic nomination. In November, he beat republican candidate and United States attorney, Rudy Giuliani, winning the general election. On January 1, 1990, Dinkins was sworn in as the first African American mayor of New York City. Dinkins was considered moderate and soft spoken in leadership style. When he took office, New York City was experiencing the effects of an economic recession; racial strife, drug use and crime were on the rise. Dinkins celebrated New York City as a "gorgeous mosaic" referring to its ethnic diversity, while pledging to mend racial tensions. And as the federal government had cut monetary aid to the nation's cities, Dinkins' supporters pushed an agenda that focused on social services for a struggling city population.

Dinkins promises to mend the city's race and religious divisions had to be balanced against a dire financial deficit. Nonetheless, Dinkins focused on making New York City a better place for its residents. He concentrated on AIDS prevention-treatment, fighting drug abuse, and building better schools and affordable housing. "Safe Streets, Safe City" was his criminal justice plan, which reduced crime while at the same time providing youth programs, expanding opportunities for children. He is credited with the creation of the office of Special Commissioner of Investigation for Schools, and worked to create an all civilian police complaint review board.

In 1991, a riot broke out between the Hasidic and Black communities in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In its aftermath, some thought that the Hasidic community received favored treatment, while others thought that not enough force was used against the Black community. In 1993, Dinkins lost the mayoral race to Rudolph Giuliani. Political pundits, the day after, referred to the Crown Heights affair as central to his defeat.

After serving his term as New York City mayor, Dinkins accepted a faculty appointment in the Practice of Public Affairs at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs; he also serves on its board of advisors. Mr. Dinkins chairs the New York City and Johannesburg Sister City Program, serves on the Advisory Board of Independent News and Media, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He serves on the steering committee of the Association for a Better New York (ABNY), and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.

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