Colleen J. Shogan Senior Specialist in Government and Finance
43 African American Members serving in the 112th Congress, all in the House of Representatives.
There have been 132 African American Members of Congress: 126 have been elected
to the House; 5 have been elected to the Senate; and 1 has been appointed to
the Senate. There have been 103 Democrats, 100 in the House and 3 in the
Senate; and 29 Republicans, 26 in the House and 3 in the Senate.
The number of African American Members has steadily increased since the first
African Americans entered Congress in 1870. There were fewer than 10
Members until the 91st Congress (1969-1971). In the 98th Congress
(1983-1985), the number surpassed 20 for the first time and then jumped to
40 in the 103rd Congress (1993-1995). Since the 106th Congress (1999-2001), the number
has remained between 39 and 44 serving at any one time.
The first African American Member of Congress was Hiram Rhodes Revels (R-MS),
who served in the Senate in the 41st Congress (served 1870-1871). The
first African American Member of the House was Joseph H. Rainey (R-SC),
who also served in the 41st Congress.
Shirley Chisholm (D-NY), elected to the 91st through 97th Congresses
(1969-1983), was the first African American woman in Congress. Since that
time, 30 other African American women have been elected, including Senator
Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL, 1993-1999), who is the only African American
woman, as well as the first African American Democrat, elected to the Senate.
Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI, 1965-present), the current chair of the
House Judiciary Committee, holds the record for length of service by an
African American Member (46 years). He was first elected to the 89th Congress
(1965-1967) and has served since January 3, 1965. Representative James E.
Clyburn (D-SC, 1993-present) and former Representatives William H. Gray
III (D-PA, 1979-1991) and J.C. Watts (R-OK, 1995-2003) have been elected to the
highest leadership positions held by African American Members of Congress.
Representative Clyburn, the House Assistant Democratic leader in the 112th
Congress, served as the House majority whip in the 110th and 111th Congresses
and as vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus in the 108th and 109th Congresses.
Representative Gray was chair of the House Democratic Caucus in 1989 (101st
Congress). Later in that Congress, when a vacancy occurred, he was elected
House majority whip, a position he held until his resignation from
Congress in September 1991 (102nd Congress). Representative Watts served
as chair of the House Republican Conference in the 106th-107th Congresses
Twenty African Americans have served as committee chairs, 19 in the House and 1
in the Senate.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), whose origins date back to 1969,
currently has 43 members. Over its 40-year history, the CBC has been one
of the most influential caucuses in Congress.
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