Congressional Black Caucus

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Congressional Black Caucus
CBCfoundingmembers.jpg
The 13 founding members of the CBC in the early 1970s. Standing L–R: Parren Mitchell (MD), Charles B. Rangel (NY), Bill Clay, Sr. (MO), Ron Dellums (CA), George Collins (IL), Louis Stokes (OH), Ralph Metcalfe (IL), John Conyers (MI), and Walter Fauntroy (DC). Seated L–R: Robert Nix, Sr. (PA), Charles Diggs (MI), Shirley Chisholm (NY), and Gus Hawkins (CA).
Formation 1971
Headquarters Washington DC
Website thecongressionalblackcaucus.com

The Congressional Black Caucus is an organization representing the black members of the United States Congress. Membership is exclusive to African-Americans,[1] and its chair in the 113th Congress is Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio.

Aims[edit]

The caucus describes its goals as "positively influencing the course of events pertinent to African-Americans and others of similar experience and situation", and "achieving greater equity for persons of African descent in the design and content of domestic and international programs and services."

The CBC encapsulates these goals in the following priorities: closing the achievement and opportunity gaps in education, assuring quality health care for every American, focusing on employment and economic security, ensuring justice for all, retirement security for all Americans, increasing welfare funds, and increasing equity in foreign policy.[2]

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Tex., has said:

The Congressional Black Caucus is one of the world's most esteemed bodies, with a history of positive activism unparalleled in our nation's history. Whether the issue is popular or unpopular, simple or complex, the CBC has fought for thirty years to protect the fundamentals of democracy. Its impact is recognized throughout the world. The Congressional Black Caucus is probably the closest group of legislators on the Hill. We work together almost incessantly, we are friends and, more importantly, a family of freedom fighters. Our diversity makes us stronger, and the expertise of all of our members has helped us be effective beyond our numbers.

Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African-American studies and popular culture at Duke University, wrote a column in late 2008 that the Congressional Black Caucus and other African-American-centered organizations are still needed, and should take advantage of "the political will that Obama's campaign has generated."[3]

Membership[edit]

The caucus has grown steadily as more black members have been elected. In 1969, the caucus had nine members. As of 2013, it had 43 members, including two who are non-voting members of the House, representing the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Senate members[edit]

As of 2014, there have been only seven black senators since the caucus's founding. Edward Brooke, a Republican senator from Massachusetts in the 60s and 70s, was not a member of the CBC. In 2013, Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, also chose not to join the CBC after being appointed to fill the senate seat of Jim DeMint. The remaining five black senators, all Democrats, have served as members of the Congressional Black Caucus. They are Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, elected in 2013 and currently serving; Carol Moseley Braun (1993–1999) of Illinois, then-Senator Barack Obama (2005–2008) of Illinois, Mo Cowan (2013) of Massachusetts, and Roland Burris (2008–2010). Burris was appointed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in December 2008 to fill Obama's seat for the remaining two years of his senate term. Cowan was appointed to temporarily serve until a special election after the seat was vacated by John Kerry following his appointment as Secretary of State.

Black Republicans in the CBC[edit]

The caucus is officially non-partisan; but, in practice, the vast majority of African Americans elected to Congress have been members of the Democratic Party. Prior to 2011, no Republican had maintained membership in the Congressional Black Caucus. Only six black Republicans have been elected to Congress since the caucus was founded: Senator Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts, Representative Gary Franks of Connecticut, Delegate Melvin H. Evans of the Virgin Islands, Representative J. C. Watts of Oklahoma, Representative Allen West of Florida, and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

In 2011, Allen West joined the caucus and became the first ongoing Republican member in the group's history, while fellow Black Republican Tim Scott declined.[4] [5] Prior to winning her race to become the first black, female Republican member of Congress, Mia Love had indicated she would join the caucus.[6]

Non-Black membership[edit]

All past and present members of the caucus have been black. In 2006, while running for Congress in a Tennessee district which is 60% black, white candidate Steve Cohen pledged to apply for membership in order to represent his constituents. However, after his election, his application was refused.[7] Although the bylaws of the caucus do not make race a prerequisite for membership, former and current members of the caucus agreed that the group should remain "exclusively black". In response to the decision, Rep. Cohen referred to his campaign promise as "a social faux pas" because "It's their caucus and they do things their way. You don't force your way in. You need to be invited."

Rep. William Lacy Clay, Jr., D-MO., the son of Rep. William Lacy Clay Sr., D-MO., a co-founder of the caucus, said: "Mr. Cohen asked for admission, and he got his answer. He's white and the caucus is black. It's time to move on. We have racial policies to pursue and we are pursuing them, as Mr. Cohen has learned. It's an unwritten rule. It's understood." Clay also issued the following statement:

Quite simply, Rep. Cohen will have to accept what the rest of the country will have to accept—there has been an unofficial Congressional White Caucus for over 200 years, and now it's our turn to say who can join 'the club.' He does not, and cannot, meet the membership criteria, unless he can change his skin color. Primarily, we are concerned with the needs and concerns of the black population, and we will not allow white America to infringe on those objectives.

Later the same week Representative Tom Tancredo, R-CO., objected to the continued existence of the CBC as well as the Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Republican Congressional Hispanic Conference arguing that, "It is utterly hypocritical for Congress to extol the virtues of a color-blind society while officially sanctioning caucuses that are based solely on race. If we are serious about achieving the goal of a colorblind society, Congress should lead by example and end these divisive, race-based caucuses."[8]

History[edit]

Founding[edit]

A predecessor to the caucus was founded in January 1969 as a "Democratic Select Committee"[9] by a group of black members of the House of Representatives, including Shirley Chisholm of New York, Louis Stokes of Ohio and William L. Clay of Missouri. Black representatives had begun to enter the House in increasing numbers during the 1960s, and they had a desire for a formal organization. The first chairman, Charles Diggs, served from 1969 to 1971. All the members of the caucus landed on the master list of Nixon political opponents.

This organization was renamed the Congressional Black Caucus in February 1971[9] on the motion of Charles B. Rangel of New York. Founding members of the caucus were Shirley Chisholm, William L. Clay Sr., George W. Collins, John Conyers, Ronald Dellums, Augustus F. Hawkins, Ralph Metcalfe, Parren Mitchell, Robert Nix, Charles Rangel, Louis Stokes, and Washington D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy.[9]

TransAfrica and Free South Africa Movement[edit]

In 1977, the organization was involved in the founding of TransAfrica, an education and advocacy affiliate that was formed to act as a resource on information on the African continent and its Diaspora.[10] They worked closely with this organization to start the national anti-apartheid movement in the US, Free South Africa Movement (characterized by sit-ins, student protests, it became the longest lasting civil disobedience movement in U.S history) and to devise the legislative strategy for the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 that was later signed by Ronald Reagan. The organization continues to be active today and works on other campaigns.[10]

Funding[edit]

In late 1994, after Republicans attained a majority in the House, they announced plans to rescind funding for 28 "legislative service organizations" which received taxpayer funding and occupied offices at the Capitol, including the CBC. Then-chairman Kweisi Mfume protested the decision. The House did abolish the legislative service organizations, including the CBC, by a voice vote on H.Res.6 on January 4, 1995, which prohibited “the establishment or continuation of any legislative service organization..." [11] The CBC reconstituted as a Congressional Member Organization.[12]

In February 2010, The New York Times reported the caucus received 55 million dollars in contributions from corporations between 2004 and 2008. Most of that money went towards the organization's charitable arm, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which was founded in 1976. Scholarships controlled by the CBC Foundation were a source of public concern in September 2009 when it was reported Sanford Bishop and other members directed the money to members of their families and political allies.

Ralph Nader incident[edit]

In 2004, independent presidential candidate and consumer activist Ralph Nader attended a meeting with the caucus which turned into a shouting exchange. The caucus urged Nader to give up his presidential run, fearing that it could hurt John Kerry, the Democratic Party's nominee. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) called the upcoming election "a life or death matter" for the caucus members' constituents. Nader accused Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) of twice uttering an "obscene racial epithet" towards Nader; he alleged that Watt said: "You're just another arrogant white man – telling us what we can do – it's all about your ego – another f—king arrogant white man."

Nader (who is of Lebanese descent) wrote to the caucus afterwards:

Instead, exclamations at the meeting... end[ed] with the obscene racist epithet repeated twice by Yale Law School alumnus Congressman Melvin Watt of North Carolina. One member of your caucus called to apologize for the crudity of some of the members. I had expected an expression of regret or apology from Congressman Watt in the subsequent days after he had cooled down. After all there was absolutely no vocal or verbal provocation from me or from my associates, including Peter Miguel Camejo, to warrant such an outburst. In all my years of struggling for justice, especially for the deprived and downtrodden, has any legislator—white or black—used such language?

I do not like double standards, especially since our premise for interactions must be equality of respect that has no room, as I responded to Mr. Watt, for playing the race card. Therefore, just as African-Americans demanded an apology from Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz and Senator Trent Lott—prior to their resignation and demotion respectively—for their racist remarks, I expect that you and others in the caucus will exert your moral persuasion and request an apology from Congressman Watt. Please consider this also my request for such an expression—a copy of which is being forwarded directly to Mr. Watt's office.[13]

Watt never offered an apology.[14]

Events[edit]

The caucus is sometimes invited to the White House to meet with the president.[15] It requests such a meeting at the beginning of each Congress.[15]

Chairs of the caucus[edit]

The following representatives have served as chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus:[16]

Members of the caucus during the 113th Congress[edit]

Officers of the 113th Congress

During the 113th Congress (2013–present), the CBC has 1 Senator, 41 voting Representatives and 2 non-voting Delegates as members:

Senate
Senator Party State
Cory Booker Democratic New Jersey
House
Representative Party State – Congressional District
Karen Bass Democratic California – 37th
Joyce Beatty Democratic Ohio3rd
Sanford Bishop Democratic Georgia2nd
Corrine Brown Democratic Florida – 5th
G. K. Butterfield Democratic North Carolina1st
André Carson Democratic Indiana7th
Delegate Donna Christian-Christensen Democratic U.S. Virgin IslandsAt-large
(non voting congressional delegate)
Yvette Clarke Democratic New York – 9th
William Lacy Clay, Jr. Democratic Missouri1st
Emanuel Cleaver Democratic Missouri5th
Jim Clyburn Democratic South Carolina6th
John Conyers, Jr.Dean Democratic Michigan13th
Elijah Cummings Democratic Maryland7th
Danny K. Davis Democratic Illinois7th
Donna Edwards Democratic Maryland4th
Keith Ellison Democratic Minnesota5th
Chaka Fattah Democratic Pennsylvania2nd
Marcia Fudge Democratic Ohio11th
Al Green Democratic Texas – 9th
Alcee Hastings Democratic Florida – 20th
Steven Horsford Democratic Nevada4th
Hakeem Jeffries Democratic New York – 8th
Eddie Bernice Johnson Democratic Texas – 30th
Hank Johnson Democratic Georgia4th
Robin Kelly Democratic Illinois2nd
Barbara Lee Democratic California – 13th
Sheila Jackson Lee Democratic Texas – 18th
John Lewis Democratic Georgia5th
Gregory Meeks Democratic New York – 5th
Gwen Moore Democratic Wisconsin4th
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton Democratic District of ColumbiaAt-large
(non voting congressional delegate)
Donald Payne, Jr. Democratic New Jersey10th
Charles Rangel Democratic New York – 13th
Cedric Richmond Democratic Louisiana2nd
Bobby Rush Democratic Illinois1st
Bobby Scott Democratic Virginia3rd
David Scott Democratic Georgia13th
Terri Sewell Democratic Alabama7th
Bennie Thompson Democratic Mississippi2nd
Marc Veasey Democratic Texas33rd
Maxine Waters Democratic California – 35th
Mel Watt Democratic North Carolina12th
Frederica Wilson Democratic Florida – 24th

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hearn, Josephine (2007-01-23). "Black Caucus: Whites Not Allowed". Politico.com. Retrieved 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ Priorities detailed
  3. ^ Jackson, Camille (January 2009). "Hitting the Ground Running". Duke University This Month at Duke. 
  4. ^ Southall, Ashley (January 5, 2011). "Republican Allen West Joins Congressional Black Caucus". The New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 
  5. ^ Alvarez, Lizette (November 20, 2012). "Republican Concedes House Race in Florida". New York Times. 
  6. ^ http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705396842/Love-would-take-apart-Congressional-Black-Caucus-if-elected-in-Utahs-4th-District.html
  7. ^ Hearn, Josephine (January 23, 2007). "Black Caucus: Whites Not Allowed". Politico.com. Retrieved 2007-01-23. 
  8. ^ "Tancredo: Abolish black, Hispanic caucuses". MSNBC. 2007-01-25. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  9. ^ a b c Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc
  10. ^ a b http://africanactivist.msu.edu/organization.php?name=TransAfrica
  11. ^ [thomas.loc.gov 104th Congress, H.Res.6, Section 222]
  12. ^ CBC Website "About Our History"
  13. ^ "In a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus: Nader asks for an apology for "obscene racist epithet" made at CBC meeting.". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  14. ^ Barrett, Ted (2004-06-23). "Black Democrats hold heated meeting with Nader". CNN. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  15. ^ a b Josephine Hearn (February 13, 2007). "White House Press Room to reopen". The Politico. 
  16. ^ "Congressional Black Caucus Chairmen and Chairwomen, 1971–Present". Black Americans in Congress. U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved November 27, 2010. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Singh, Robert (1998). The Congressional Black Caucus: Racial Politics in the U.S. Congress. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage. 

External links[edit]