An Oral History of Former Mayor, Marion Barry

Memorabilia from Marion Barry's campaign

Collection materials include campaign memorabilia from Barry’s mayoral and City Council elections. (Logan Werlinger/the George Washington University)

Marion Barry (1936–2014), named by the Washington Post as, “the most influential and savvy local politician of his generation” became mayor of the District of Columbia in 1978, changing the political landscape of the city.

The GW Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) is now the home to a series of oral history interviews focused on that 1978 mayoral campaign. Barry, a long-time fixture in DC government, was elected to the school board in 1971 and went on to serve several terms as a member of City Council and four terms as mayor.

A collaborative initiative between GW and a group of campaign insiders, the collection currently includes over 30 interviews with individuals who either worked on Barry’s first mayoral campaign or covered it as a member of the press. The collection also contains reports, t-shirts, buttons, publications, and photographs associated with DC political history and the Barry campaign. It complements existing collections in the SCRC on the history of DC and DC politics. These oral history interviews are available to the public; the audio recordings and transcripts are also available online.

The collection was officially launched this past spring with an event at the John A. Wilson District Building. “This was a historic moment for the city and for the country,” Kwame Holman, Barry’s friend, said in a statement. “During his campaign for mayor, Barry won the election with the support of gays and lesbians, low-income people and whites. His election was about the evolution of Home Rule in the District of Columbia.”

This collection is open to the public and available for research in Gelman Library’s Special Collections Research Center. Please contact [email protected] to make an appointment to view the materials.