Ivanhoe Donaldson was a prominent civil rights activist and political strategist who played a significant role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and in Washington D.C. politics in the 1970s and 1980s.
Donaldson was born on January 15, 1941, in Hartford, Connecticut, but grew up in Washington D.C. He attended Howard University, a historically Black university, where he became involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a leading civil rights organization. Donaldson participated in numerous protests and demonstrations, including the historic March on Washington in 1963, where he helped to organize the event.
In the late 1960s, Donaldson shifted his focus to community organizing and worked to improve the economic conditions in impoverished neighborhoods in Washington D.C. He was a founding member of the Drum and Spear Bookstore and Center, which provided educational resources and cultural programming to the Black community. He also worked as the executive director of D.C. City Council’s Committee on Public Works.
In the 1970s, Donaldson turned his attention to politics and became a key figure in Washington D.C. politics. He worked for Mayor Marion Barry as the director of the Office of Community Affairs and played a crucial role in launching Barry’s successful mayoral campaign in 1978. After Barry’s victory, Donaldson was appointed as the deputy mayor for economic development and played a significant role in attracting new businesses and development to the city.
However, Donaldson’s career was marked by controversy and scandal. In 1987, he pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion and conspiracy in connection with a scheme to divert funds from a city-funded jobs program. Donaldson was sentenced to 36 months in prison but served 28 months before being released in 1990.
Following his release, Donaldson became a born-again Christian and turned to motivational speaking and consulting. He continued to be involved in community activism and served as the chairman of the board of directors for the Drum and Spear Bookstore and Center.
Donaldson passed away on October 8, 2016, at the age of 75. He was remembered as a tireless advocate for civil rights and economic justice and as a pioneer in Black political leadership.