African American Heritage

Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was established in 1971 to put forth policy and legislation that ensured equal rights, opportunity, and access to Black Americans and other marginalized communities. It is a non-partisan body made up of African American members of Congress. The CBC was created during the high point of the Black Power Movement, when African Americans wanted greater political influence, and were gaining more seats in Congress.

When President Nixon refused to meet with the Caucus after its formation, the CBC boycotted the 1971 State of the Union. Stating that Nixon's refusal to meet with them demonstrated the administration's disregard of African American interests, the boycott resulted in a lot of media attention, and Richard Nixon met with members on March 25, 1971. At the meeting, the CBC presented Nixon with sixty-one recommendations to eradicate racism, provide quality housing, and promote engagement of African Americans in government. The records at the National Archives regarding the CBC include Legislative minutes, videos, and photographs of members meeting with US presidents, other members of Congress, and their constituents.

CBC meeting with President Nixon

Members of the CBC meet with President Nixon, March 25, 1971 (NAID 7822054)


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Founding Members of the Congressional Black Caucus

Bill Clay (D-MO) (April 30, 1931)

William Lacy Clay, Sr. was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1968, representing portions of St. Louis in Missouri's First District until 2001. Throughout his career he advocated on environmental, labor, and social justice issues. It was Clay that wrote to President Richard Nixon, “We now refuse to be part of your audience,” signalling the boycott of the 1971 State of the Union.

George W. Collins (D-IL) (March 5, 1925 - December 8, 1972)

George Washington Collins represented the 6th District of Illinois from 1970 to 1972. Collins came to the House of Representatives after serving as a local Chicago alderman. Collins died when a plane crashed on approach to Chicago's Midway International Airport. His wife, Cardiss Collins was elected to his seat, and served in Congress until 1997.

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John Conyers (D-MI) (May 16, 1929 - October 27, 2019)

John Conyers was born in Highland Park, Michigan. He was the US Representative for Michigan’s 13th District (including Detroit and surrounding areas) and was the sixth longest serving member of the US House of Representatives. Conyers served in the Michigan National Guard, the US Army, and the US Army Reserves. In addition to the CBC, Conyers also joined the Congressional Progressive Congress. John Conyers was also a sponsor of the bill to establish the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Throughout his career he served on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight Committee.

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Conyers talks with troops deployed for Operation Sustain Hope

Representative Conyers talks with troops deployed for Operation Sustain Hope (NAID 6509540)

Ron Dellums (D-CA) (November 24, 1935 - July 30, 2018)

Ron Dellums at a desk

Clip from "The People and the Police" (NAID 12120)

Ronald Vernie Dellums served thirteen terms representing California's 9th District (including Oakland), and was also elected the Mayor of Oakland from 2007 to 2011. As a open socialist, Dellums and other founding members of the CBC were placed on the Nixon master list of political opponents, or the "enemies list." A major piece of legislation Dellums sponsored was the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, which he had advocated for since 1972.

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Charles Diggs (D-MI) (December 2, 1922 - August 24, 1998)

Charles Coles Diggs, Jr. was the first African American elected to Congress from Michigan, serving from 1955 to 1980. Diggs was the only member of Congress to attend the trail of the murderers of Emmett Till. He also served as the first chairperson of the Congressional Black Congress, leading the 1971 boycott of the State of the Union. During his time in Congress, Diggs was known as a leading anti-Apartheid voice when he served in the Committee of Foreign Affairs.

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Walter Fauntroy (D-DC) (February 6, 1933)

Walter Fauntroy was the first person to serve as Washington DC's non-voting Congressional delegate. As a delegate, Fauntroy (continuing through to current Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton) could not vote on legislation on the House floor, but he did vote in committee and introduce legislation. Fauntroy advocated for DC home rule, and other issues concerning urban residents and people of color.

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Walter Fauntroy with HUD Secretary Mel Martinez

Secretary Mel Martinez with Fauntroy at HUD-Church Association for Community Services Press Event (detail) (NAID 6176322)

Augustus F. Hawkins (D-CA) (August 31, 1907 - November 10, 2007)

Augustus Freeman Hawkins was the first African American elected to Congress from California, serving from 1963 to 1991. He was the author of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and restored the honorable discharge of Black soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment who were wrongly accused of public disturbance in Brownsville, Texas in 1906. Throughout his career he was strongly committed to education and unemployment reform.

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Ralph Metcalfe (D-IL) (May 29, 1910 - October 10, 1978)

Metcalfe at the Bud Billiken Parade

Ralph Metcalfe at the Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago (NAID 556273)

Ralph Metcalfe first gained notoriety as a track and field sprinter, coming in second place behind Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Metcalfe served four terms as a Representative of Illinois First District from 1971 to 1978. Although his political career started closely aligned with powerful Chicago mayor Richard Daley, Metcalfe split political ties with him calling out the selective police brutality towards African Americans in Chicago.

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Parren Mitchell (D-MD) (April 29, 1922 - May 28, 2007)

Parren James Mitchell was the first African American elected to Congress from Maryland, representing the 7th District from 1971 to 1987. During his time in Congress, Mitchell advocated for affirmative action and chaired the Small Business Committee.

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Parren Mitchell with Jimmy Carter

Congressman Parren Mitchell with President Jimmy Carter (detail) (NAID 175563)

Robert N.C. Nix Sr. (D-PA) (August 9, 1898 - June 22, 1987)

Robert Nix with Jimmy Carter

Congressman Robert Nix with President Jimmy Carter (detail) (NAID 176303)

Robert Nelson Cornelius Nix Sr. was the first African American elected to Congress from Pennsylvania, serving from 1958 to 1979. Nix sat on the Veteran's Affairs Committee, and Foreign Affairs Committee, and was chairperson of the Committee on the Post Office and Civil Service.

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Charles Rangel (D-NY) (June 11, 1930)

Charles Bernard Rangel was born in Harlem, New York. He retired as the US Representative for New York’s 13th District and is the tenth longest serving member of the House of Representatives. Rangel received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service during the Korean War. In 1971, Rangel defeated longtime Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. in the primary for the Congressional seat in New York. Throughout his career, Rangel focused on domestic social spending as a member of the Ways and Means Committee; narcotics and drug legislation; economic opportunity for the poor; and participated in the impeachment hearings of Richard Nixon.

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Charles Rangel shakes hands with Barack Obama

Congressman Rangel with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office (NAID 176550328)

Louis Stokes (D-OH) (February 23, 1925 - August 18, 2015)

Louis Stokes was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He was the first African American elected to Congress to represent the state of Ohio, serving 15 terms from 1969 to 1999. Stokes was first elected in 1968 and was a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Ethics Committee, and the Appropriations Committee. Stokes also took part in notable Congressional investigations - for the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the Iran-Contra Affair and ABSCAM. In 1992, Louis Stokes ran for president as a favorite son of Ohio.

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