Congressional Black Caucus
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).
The Congressional Black Caucus is an organization representing the black members of the United States Congress. Membership is exclusive to African-Americans, and its chair in the 113th Congress is Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio.
- 1 Aims
- 2 Membership
- 3 History
- 4 Chairs of the caucus
- 5 Members of the caucus during the 113th Congress
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Bibliography
- 9 External links
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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. 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."
A predecessor to the caucus was founded in January 1969 as a "Democratic Select Committee" 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 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.
TransAfrica and Free South Africa Movement
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. 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.
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..."  The CBC reconstituted as a Congressional Member Organization.
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
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.
Watt never offered an apology.
Chairs of the caucus
The following representatives have served as chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus:
- Charles Coles Diggs, Jr. 1971–1972
- Louis Stokes 1972–1974
- Charles B. Rangel 1974–1976
- Yvonne Brathwaite Burke 1976–1977
- Parren James Mitchell 1977–1979
- Cardiss Collins 1979–1981
- Walter Edward Fauntroy 1981–1983
- Julian Carey Dixon 1983–1985
- Mickey Leland 1985–1987
- Mervyn Malcolm Dymally 1987–1989
- Ronald V. Dellums 1989–1991
- Edolphus Towns 1991–1993
- Kweisi Mfume 1993–1995
- Donald M. Payne 1995–1997
- Maxine Waters 1997–1999
- James E. Clyburn 1999–2001
- Eddie Bernice Johnson 2001–2003
- Elijah E. Cummings 2003–2005
- Melvin L. Watt 2005–2007
- Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick 2007–2009
- Barbara Lee 2009–2011
- Emanuel Cleaver 2011–2013
- Marcia Fudge 2013–present
Members of the caucus during the 113th Congress
Officers of the 113th Congress
- Marcia Fudge – Chair
- G. K. Butterfield – First Vice Chair
- Yvette Clarke – Second Vice Chair
- André Carson – Secretary
- Karen Bass – Whip
During the 113th Congress (2013–present), the CBC has 1 Senator, 41 voting Representatives and 2 non-voting Delegates as members:
- Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
- Congressional caucus
- African Americans in the United States Congress
- Pan-African Congress
- TransAfrica Forum
- Hearn, Josephine (2007-01-23). "Black Caucus: Whites Not Allowed". Politico.com. Retrieved 2007-01-23.
- Priorities detailed
- Jackson, Camille (January 2009). "Hitting the Ground Running". Duke University This Month at Duke.
- Southall, Ashley (January 5, 2011). "Republican Allen West Joins Congressional Black Caucus". The New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2011.
- Alvarez, Lizette (November 20, 2012). "Republican Concedes House Race in Florida". New York Times.
- Hearn, Josephine (January 23, 2007). "Black Caucus: Whites Not Allowed". Politico.com. Retrieved 2007-01-23.
- "Tancredo: Abolish black, Hispanic caucuses". MSNBC. 2007-01-25. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
- Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc
- [thomas.loc.gov 104th Congress, H.Res.6, Section 222]
- CBC Website "About Our History"
- "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.
- Barrett, Ted (2004-06-23). "Black Democrats hold heated meeting with Nader". CNN. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
- Josephine Hearn (February 13, 2007). "White House Press Room to reopen". The Politico.
- "Congressional Black Caucus Chairmen and Chairwomen, 1971–Present". Black Americans in Congress. U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved November 27, 2010.
- Singh, Robert (1998). The Congressional Black Caucus: Racial Politics in the U.S. Congress. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.
- Congressional Black Caucus 2008 Braintrust on Internet Safety
- Congressional Black Caucus website
- Congressional Black Caucus Political Education & Leadership Institute
- Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
- A voice: African American Voices in Congress (Congressional Black Caucus online archive)
- Congressional Black Caucus Holds Hearings On Police Brutality in Los Angeles
- Corporate Black Caucus?, CounterPunch
- Black Commentator: How to Fix the fractured Black Caucus
- Black Caucus Meets with Raul Castro, CNN Video Report, April 8, 2009
- C-SPAN Q&A interview with CBC Executive Director and General Counsel Angela T. Rye, June 10, 2012
- Black Political Elite Continue To Support Israel's Assault on Gaza (2014-08-04). Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report): Past members of the Black Caucus stood up against Israeli aggression, but today most of these voices are silenced by corporate financing. The Real News