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     The Origin of the Congressional Black Caucus

In the fall of 1968 the national elections resulted not only in a new president, Richard M. Nixon, but the addition of thirteen Black people, all male except for one woman, to the United States Congress. This number was the highest number of Black representatives in Congress since the days of Reconstruction, which ended almost one hundred years earlier.

This change was due to a number of factors. A few of them were the 1965 Voting Rights Act which enabled millions of Black Americans to vote for the first time. Since Reconstruction this fundamental constitutional right was denied primarily to Black adults in the south. The 1960s were also a time of great social unrest and there were many civil rights marches and demonstrations. There were also dozens of riots—which many called urban rebellions —across the country, and these caused many people to admit that something was indeed wrong in the United States.

Prior to 1968, Congress—except for literally a few exceptions—had been an all White institution that was unresponsive to the many social and legislative needs of the country's Black population. This fact had long been a simmering point of anger and frustration among the country’s Black folk. By 1968 the combinations of voting empowerment and public outrage resulted in some congressional districts to be redrawn, which was a necessity if the country’s previously ignored Black population was to be more adequately represented.

In January 1969, newly elected African-American representatives of the 77th Congress joined incumbents to form the “Democratic Select Committee.” The Committee was renamed the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the CBC was born in 1971. The thirteen founding members were: Representatives Shirley Chisholm, William Clay, George Collins, John Conyers, Ronald Dellums, Charles Diggs, Augustus Hawkins, Ralph MetcaIfe, Parren Mitchell, Robert Nix, Charles Rangel, Louis Stokes, and the Washington, DC Delegate Walter Fauntroy. Their goals were to positively influence the course of events pertinent to African Americans and others of similar experience and situation and to achieve greater equality for persons of African descent in the design and content of domestic and international programs and services. While the CBC has been primarily focused on the concerns of African Americans, the Caucus has also been at the forefront of legislative campaigns for human and civil rights for all citizens.

Since 1968 the numbers of Black congresspersons has increased with each congressional election. The current number of Black congressional members is forty-two, including Senator Barack Obama. All are democrats of this, the 110th Congress.
updated August 4, 2007

Written by the staff of  IPOAA magazine with an excerpt from the web page of Congressman James E. Clyburn, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus during the 106th Congress.