H I C A G O
R I B U T E
smart and street savvy, Oscar
DePriest was a natural politician. He
became Chicagos first black alderman
and the first black congressman elected
from a northern state.
Born in Alabama, DePriest came to
Chicago in the late 1880s, finding work
as a house painter. His organizational
skills, popularity and strategic prowess
impressed Republican Party leaders, who
nominated him for Cook County
commissioner in 1904. He served two terms.
In 1915, he was elected alderman of the 2nd Ward. He introduced a civil
rights ordinance in city council the next year. Although indicted for bribery
in 1917, he was acquitted. He ran for re-election in 1919, as a member of
the Peoples Movement Club, an independent political party he founded.
Although unsuccessful, he went on to narrowly win the First District seat
the U.S. House of Representatives in 1928. During his tenure, his victories
were both symbolic, as when he fought for the right of his wife, Jessie
Williams DePriest, to have tea with President Hoovers wife in the
House, and substantive, with his antidiscrimination amendment to the
1933 bill establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps.
After leaving Congress
in 1934, DePriest ran again for alderman in Chicago, serving from 194347.
He lived at 4536 South Grand Boulevard (now King Drive).