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Congressional Black Caucus

From Academic Kids

The Congressional Black Caucus is an organization representing African American members of the Congress of the United States. Its chair in the 109th Congress is Representative Mel Watt of North Carolina.

The Caucus was founded in January 1969, 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. Blacks had begun to enter the House in increasing numbers during the 1960s, and the formation of the Caucus reflected their need for a formal organization. Originally called a "Democratic Select Committee," it was named the Congressional Black Caucus in February 1971 on the motion of Charles B. Rangel of New York.

The Caucus is officially non-partisan, but in practice it has been almost exclusively composed of Democrats, and tends to function as a lobbying group with the wider Congressional Democratic Party. Only three black Republicans have been elected to Congress since the Caucus was founded: Senator Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts and Representatives Gary Franks of Connecticut and J.C. Watts, Jr. of Oklahoma. Watts refused to join the Caucus, calling black Democrats "race-hustling poverty pimps."

The Caucus has grown steadily as more African American members have been elected. In 1969 the Caucus had nine members. In 2003 it had 38 members, including two who are non-voting members of the House, representing the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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."

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas said in 2001: "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."

Members of the Caucus during the 109th Congress

(All current Caucus members are Democrats.)

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