Formed 50 years ago, Congressional Black Caucus made presence felt by standing up to Nixon

MAY 25, 1971: Congressional Black Caucus Representatives George W. Collins (D-Ill.), Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.), Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.), William L. Clay (D-Mo.), Charles C. Diggs, Jr. (D-Mich.), Augustus F. Hawkins (D-Calif.), Parren J. Mitchell (D-Md.), Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.), Louis Stokes (D-Ohio), Ralph Metcalfe (D-Ill.) (Photo by Warren K. Leffler/Library of Congress). (Getty Images)

It didn’t take long for this group to make an impact.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Congressional Black Caucus, a nonpartisan group of Black members in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that provides a voice and highlights issues prominent in the Black community.

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With a growing number of Black representatives in Congress due to redistricting, members felt a more official group was needed to better serve their communities. So in 1971, 13 members of the House formed the initial group, but they were originally ignored by one prominent person: then-President Richard Nixon.

After the group formed, Nixon initially refused to meet, and the members decided to do something about that, according to the House’s historical website.

The CBC then decided to boycott Nixon’s State of the Union Address in 1971 -- a decision that made national headlines and became a notable public relations win for the group.

As a result, Nixon eventually agreed to meet with the group in March 1971, and he was presented with 61 recommendations to address various issues plaguing the Black community, according to the Congressional Black Caucus’ website.

The 13 original members were:

  • Rep. Shirley Chisholm (New York)
  • Rep. William Clay, Sr. (Missouri)
  • Rep. George Collins (Illinois)
  • Rep. John Conyers (Michigan)
  • Rep. Ronald Dellums (California)
  • Rep. Charles Diggs (Michigan)
  • Rep. Augustus Hawkins (California)
  • Rep. Ralph Metcalfe (Illinois)
  • Rep. Parren Mitchell (Maryland)
  • Rep. Robert N.C. Nix (Pennsylvania)
  • Rep. Charles Rangel (New York)
  • Rep. Louis Stokes (Ohio)
  • Del. Walter Fauntroy (District of Columbia)

Since its inception, the CBC has been a prominent voice for various legislation, such as helping get Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day established as an official holiday, and being influential in the passing of anti-apartheid measures against South Africa and the 1977 Full Employment Act.

One prominent member of the CBC was President Barack Obama, who was a part of the group when he served in the Senate prior to be elected to the Oval Office.

Currently at 55 members, the CBC forms about a quarter of the Democratic Party’s representation in the House.

About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

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