The Congressional Black Caucus and Its Activities


The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was formed with only 13 members in 1971. Currently, it has a membership of 42 members. It is critical to note that from the outset, that group membership was racially exclusive, but their goals and objectives were all-inclusive. The group’s stated mission was to empower marginalized American citizenry. As a result of the collapse of several civil movements of the 1960s, a vacuum was left in the leadership, which was unable to monitor issues of concern in the black community (Brown et al. 87). Thus, the founding members of the CBC felt that providing a single voice on certain issues would the best decision.

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Power Relations

The CBC supported efforts to improve education, health, reduce unemployment, support rights to vote, facilitate housing, and childcare in poor black communities (Clay 47). The CBC has advanced a single voice in foreign policy issues, with a specific focus on human rights issues around the globe. To this end, the CBC has exploited both the formal and the ad hoc strategies. They have varied from public petitions to boycotts as well as a legislative agenda in the House inter alia (Whitby 34). Within the congress and the party structures, the CBC has uniquely played money. It has, over time, been observed that the CBC has been able to act as an interest group in the black community, not only in government but also in labor unions. A case under the study is the House’s decision to have a CBC member on each major House committee after lobbying the CBC.

Moreover, the CBC is able to issue policy agenda declarations, which are different from the party agenda. This was evident in the original CBC of 1971 (Whitby 67). The Caucus is able to play a symbolic role as an umbrella representative body of the African American community. Although critics have argued that the Caucus is better as a social and community organization than a political and legislative one, there is evidence that the group may exploit its ever-growing numbers to rise to positions of committee leadership in the House (Brown et al. 98). Before the election of Barrack Obama as the president, in 2008, the CBC held the highest national elected office positions in the history of African Americans (Tate 129). The CBC has also been able to establish and develop programs, which have mentored, sponsored, and encouraged a new generation of black leaders across the USA. In the House, the CBC celebrates the achievements of marginalized African Americans through resolutions that have honored numerous civil rights movement heroes (Wilson 87).


Indeed, the CBC is usually referred to as the ‘conscience’ of the Congress. Since its inception, the group has fought many battles on the floor of the House and outside. The group has won some and lost the others. One former member of the CBC is now its president. By speaking in one voice, the CBC will remain a voice of reason in the House for a long time. It does not mean that new challenges will not arise. The survival of the CBC will be dependent on its ability to anticipate the changes in the current highly dynamic politics and adjust them accordingly. The other concern would be the need for the group to include new members to boost its influence in the House. Change and flexibility will be critical in the future.

Works Cited

Brown, Michael K., Martin Carnoy, and David B. Oppenheimer. Whitewashing race: The myth of a color-blind society. Oakland, CA: Univ of California Press, 2003. Print.

Clay, William L. Just Permanent Interests: Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1991. New York, NY: Amistad Press, 1992. Print.

Geiss, Imanuel. The pan-African movement: A history of Pan-Africanism in America, Europe, and Africa. New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1974. Print.

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Gilroy, Paul. Against race: Imagining political culture beyond the color line. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000. Print.

Levine, Lawrence W. Highbrow/Lowbrow. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988. Print.

Tate, Katherine. Black faces in the mirror: African Americans and their representatives in the US Congress. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003. Print.

Welch, Claude E. Dream of unity: Pan-Africanism and political unification in West Africa. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966. Print.

Whitby, Kenny J. The color of representation: Congressional behavior and black interests. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2000. Print.

Wilson, William J. The declining significance of race: Blacks and changing American institutions. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2012. Print.

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