Chicago— The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement on the passing of Reverend Walter “Slim” Coleman:

“Reverend Walter ‘Slim’ Coleman’s commitment to social justice permeated throughout his life and shaped the political landscape of our city and nation in ways that will reverberate for generations. His leadership at the forefront of movements from the 1960s through today inspires the Chicago Teachers Union to stay strong in the struggle.

“His work helping to form the Rainbow Coalition is an example of the multiracial, community solidarity work that undergirds the CTU’s process. When it appeared impossible to many that Chicago would elect a Black mayor, Slim’s contributions helped pave the way for Harold Washington to break through that barrier, making subsequent firsts possible — including the first middle school teacher to govern from the Fifth Floor of City Hall. And Reverend Coleman’s invocation of holy sanctuary to champion the rights of Elvira Arellano and thousands of other undocumented immigrants laid the groundwork for Chicago to declare itself a sanctuary city.

“Reverend Coleman leaves a legacy of empowerment and justice in Chicago. As a pivotal figure in Mayor Harold Washington’s era, Reverend Coleman was instrumental in the establishment of local school councils (LSCs) throughout Chicago. These councils empower parents, teachers, and community members to directly influence education policies at the grassroots level. His advocacy for LSCs reflected a deep-seated belief in grassroots empowerment and community engagement in decision-making processes.

“Furthermore, Reverend Coleman’s contribution to eligibility requirements provided an opportunity for parents in the community, regardless of status, to not only vote but run for office and have a chance to make policy changes in the education of their children. This inclusive approach encouraged self-determination in the undocumented community and enabled parents to advocate for and achieve victories, such as bringing bilingual education to schools to meet the needs of the community.

“His tireless work has left a long-lasting mark on the educational landscape of Chicago that CTU is proud to carry on that legacy.”

The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 300,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at