Remembering “Our Mayor”: David N. Dinkins and Columbia University Libraries

Mayor Dinkins at 2015 event
Photo by Ethan Wu / Columbia Spectator

David N. Dinkins, New York City’s first, and only, African American mayor died on November 23, at the age of 93. Dinkins, whose term as mayor lasted from 1990 to 1993, had been a member of the Columbia University community for more than a quarter of a century, serving since 1994 as professor at the School of International and Public Affairs, and hosting the annual David N. Dinkins Leadership & Public Policy Forum.

A passionate advocate for, and defender of, the importance of libraries, Mayor Dinkins had been a valued partner to the Columbia University Libraries at least since 2002, when his personal and professional papers were acquired by the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

“Mayor Dinkins was a treasured member of the Columbia community,” said Ann Thornton, Vice Provost and University Librarian. “Columbia University Libraries is honored to serve as the repository for his extensive personal archive of papers documenting his public life and legacy.”

The David Dinkins papers collection contains more than 225 linear feet of archival materials, spanning Mr. Dinkins’ early political life and continuing through his career as a professor. Although the official records of his time as mayor are held by the New York City Municipal Archives, the Dinkins papers at Columbia offer rich documentation of his early political campaigns and positions, including his time as a state assemblyman in the mid-1960s, and his years as Manhattan Borough President.

In 2014, RBML interviewer Megan French-Marcelin sat down for a series of remarkable oral history interviews with the former mayor. The short excerpts below reflect the global influence and impact that Mr. Dinkins wielded, as well as his mastery of politics on the most local, personal level:

In December 2015, the RBML partnered with SIPA to host an event entitled “Our Mayor, David N. Dinkins, 25 Years Later: Archives, Legacy, Leadership,” to consider the impacts of his history-making administration. The conversation featured Ann Thornton, Ester Fuchs, Alondra Nelson, David Paterson, and David Dinkins, and can be viewed here: