The “Gorgeous Mosaic”: Tribute to David N. Dinkins

“I stand before you today as the elected leader of the greatest city of a great nation, to which my ancestors were brought, chained and whipped in the hold of a slave ship.” ~David Dinkins

On November 23, 2020, former Mayor of New York City David Dinkins passed away at the age of 93 in his Manhattan home. He fought for racial unity, inclusivity and mentorships for future leaders. After serving as mayor, Dinkins became a professor at Columbia University and published his memoir A Mayor’s Life: Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic. Dinkins was on the board of directors of the United States Tennis Association, the Children’s Health Fund, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. He received a Congressional Gold Medal for his service in the Montford Point Marines, and Dinkins was also a member of Sigma Pi Phi and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternities.

Mayor Dinkins standing at a podium speaking
Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins speaking at ceremony, at the Ted Weiss Federal Office Building in New York City, New York, marking the announcement of the designation of the 17th-18th Century African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan as a National Monument (NAID 5630020)

David Norman Dinkins was born on July 10, 1927, in Trenton, New Jersey. After graduating from Trenton Central High School in 1945, and joined the United States Marine Corps. After his service, Dinkins attended Howard University and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He settled in New York City and earned a law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1956. Dinkins married Joyce Burrows, the daughter of a New York State Assemblyman, when he became involved with the Democratic Party. In 1965, Dinkins won his first political office as a New York State Assemblyman. He also held positions as city clerk for New York and Manhattan’s borough president. On his first try, Dinkins was elected as the first (and so far only) African American mayor of New York City in 1989.

The National Archives holds several photographs, videos and textual records related to David Dinkins. The series Photographs Documenting the Secretary’s Activities, and Agency Officials, Events, Programs, and Managed Sites (NAID 2679097) contains several images of Dinkins attending the announcement of the African Burial Ground becoming a national monument. Additional records related to Dinkins are found in these series: Moving Images Relating to Drug Control Policy During the Administration of President George H. W. Bush (NAID 568690), Photo File Photographs (NAID 611515), and Photographs Relating to Agency Officials, Events and Activities (NAID 7280573).

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