Today’s blog was written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Supervisory Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland
This year is the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Black Power movement in America. During the 1960s and 1970s, African Americans experienced an increase in the embrace of racial pride, self-determination, and started to create cultural institutions relating to their communities. The momentum of the Black Power movement also brought about a stronger desire for political power. Through black political organizing, African American politicians were able to refocus their attention towards an agenda that would better serve and improve black communities in America and throughout the world.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was established in 1971 to give a political voice to black Americans. It was the successor of the Democratic Select Committee (DSC) that was created to give black members of the House of Representatives an opportunity to discuss concerns of the African American community. The CBC is made up of African American Congressmen and women who vow to bring political attention to issues of importance to black Americans. The founding members were: Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), Shirley Chisholm (D-NY), William L. Clay, Sr. (D-MO), George W. Collins (D-IL), John Conyers (D-MI), Ronald Dellums (D-CA), Augustus F. Hawkins (D-CA), Ralph Metcalfe (D-IL), Parren Mitchell (D-MD), Robert Nix (D-PA), Louis Stokes (D-OH), Walter Fauntroy (D-DC), and Charles Diggs (D-MI) served as its first chairman.
The CBC emerged during the high point of Black Power, when African Americans wanted greater political influence. The Caucus was viewed as radical and militant in their approach to focus on the needs of the black community. In addition, the CBC chose to limit its membership to only black members of Congress, a decision that received criticism from other members of Congress and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organization that fought for integration. CBC supported the election of other black politicians into offices at all levels and continued to be a proponent for key issues, which included social justice, welfare, education, employment, and foreign policy for black people around the world.
In 1972, CBC co-sponsored the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana. This meeting of black politicians and activists was a milestone in black power politics and an exchange of radical ideas. The delegates at the convention wrote the National Black Political Agenda with the goals of addressing the issues of the conditions of major cities, public schools, drug addiction, and unemployment of black people in America and around the world.