David Dinkins and New York City Politics

Race, Images, and the Media

By Wilbur C. Rich

Subjects: Leadership Studies
Paperback : 9780791469507, 253 pages, November 2006
Hardcover : 9780791469491, 253 pages, November 2006

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
1. Introduction
2. The Making of a New York Black Politician: David Dinkins
3. David Dinkins and Regime Change
4. The Staffing of Dinkins’ City Hall
5. Racial Events, Diplomacy, and Dinkins’ Image
6. Who Runs the City? Union Bosses or the Mayor?
7. Crime Coverage, Mayoral Images, and Signaling
8. The Turmoil of School Politics 
9. Conclusion


Studies the role of the media in shaping public perceptions of David Dinkins’ mayoral leadership.


As the first African American elected mayor of New York City, David Dinkins underwent intense scrutiny—first from the black community, then from white liberal supporters, the media, and the city's electorate. Wilbur C. Rich focuses on the critical role played by the New York City media in the perception of mayoral leadership. Using interviews and words of journalists, Rich examines media coverage as both the architect and challenger of Dinkins' image. The making and unmaking of David Dinkins not only exposes much about the agency of African American politicians, but also reveals the fragility of electoral coalitions.

Wilbur C. Rich is Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College. He has written many books, including Coleman Young and Detroit Politics: From Social Activist to Power Broker and the edited volume (with James Bowers) Governing Middle-Sized Cities: Studies in Mayoral Leadership.


"…offers valuable insight into the contextual conditions shaping Dinkins' election and governance strategies. " — American Review of Politics

"…an appreciated analysis of that city's first black mayor attempting to govern what was sometimes called an ungovernable city. " — Black Alumni Network

"Wilbur Rich is the nation's preeminent political scientist on mayors and mayoral leadership. What is unique about this book is that Rich examines Dinkins' mayoralty through the lens of the New York City media. Rich shows how the influential New York City media deconstructed Dinkins' 'preferred self-image' (a competent, sensitive, skillful public servant) into a 'prevailing self-image' of an incompetent politician incapable of leading the world's most important city. " — Marion Orr, author of Black Social Capital: The Politics of School Reform in Baltimore, 1986–1998

"Wilbur Rich has done it again—gone where few scholars have gone before. In this book about David Dinkins as mayor of New York, Rich takes on the complex matter of how race, images, and the media are intertwined. He shows us how powerful stereotypes affect both journalists and their audiences. Once more, readers of the work of Wilbur Rich will find themselves thinking in new ways about a big topic. " — Clarence Stone, The George Washington University

"Wilbur Rich has written a superb and pathbreaking study on racial politics and the media. What is so essential about this book is that it is a study centered in the media capital of the nation, New York City—the center of the media universe and the training ground and the home of the media elite, those in not only the electronic, but the print media as well. Thus Rich's findings about the role of the media in constructing an inclusive democratic city and society are simply unparalleled and profoundly insightful. " — Hanes Walton Jr. , coauthor of American Politics and the African American Quest for Universal Freedom, Third Edition