Congressional Black Caucus swears in its largest group in history

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., smiles during opening day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Jan 3, 2023, in Washington. Jeffries is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which welcomed its biggest caucus yet.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Congressional Black Caucus of the 118th Congress was officially sworn in at a ceremony on Tuesday, with Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) replacing outgoing Chairwoman Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) as the “conscience of the Congress.” 

Horsford said the new CBC will have the opportunity to advance the vision of the first CBC from 50 years ago — one that had only 13 members, including Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.) as the only woman.

“The laws and policies of our nation did not always favor Black Americans, from the earliest slaves brought across the ocean to the Black soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. To those who braved the earliest fights through Jim Crow & Reconstruction, from the Tuskegee Airmen and Henrietta Lacks to the brave front-line workers in the COVID pandemic,” Horsford said. “In the work we do, we honor our history, like the many Black members that served before there was even a Congressional Black Caucus.”

The new leadership was announced in early December. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) was sworn in as the first vice chair; Rep. Troy Carter (D-La.) as second vice chair; Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) as secretary; and Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.) as the caucus’s whip. 

In total, 58 members — nine of them new members — were sworn in, including Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), the first Gen Z member and the only Afro-Cuban in Congress, as well as Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.), the first Black woman elected to the House from Pennsylvania.  

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge administered the oath. 

“For more than 50 years, the Congressional Black Caucus has been the conscience of the Congress, the moral center that ensures that the people in communities whose blood, sweat and tears built this country are never forgotten by this storied institution,” Fudge said.

“CBC, I do not know if we have ever needed you more than we do now,” she continued. “We need you to be that sure and steady voice for the voiceless; to guarantee that the people of this country are never silenced, never again cast aside or forgotten. I am confident that you will begin this 118th Congress grounded by the generations of activists who fought for justice and equality.”

The new class is the largest in CBC history, and members took time to express their gratitude to some of the most influential Black lawmakers in the caucus.

“We all stand on the shoulders of giants like Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Shirley Chisholm, Luke Stokes, Barbara Jordan, John Lewis, Elijah Cummings, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Bill Gray and of course, the Honorable James E. Clyburn,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), newly appointed head of the House Democrats. “I am proud to stand on your shoulders.”

For Beatty, who steps down as chairwoman, Tuesday’s swearing in was “particularly meaningful” after two years of political crises. 

“We not only faced the attack of January 6, 2021, we overcame it because this is our America, an America that we continue to lift our people out of bondage,” she said. 

Beatty celebrated the work of the 117th Congress, which included criminalizing lynching and making a federal holiday of Juneteenth.

“After more than 100 years of striving, this was the Congress that finally passed the law making lynching a federal crime, the Emmett Till anti-lynching. And it was this Congress that made June 19 a federal holiday,” said Beatty. “It was this was Congress that passed the Respect for Marriage Act, requiring interracial marriages to be recognized along with same-sex marriages throughout the United States. And yes, it was this Congress that made sure the American Rescue Plan included billions of dollars for predominantly Black institutions of higher education.”

Beatty added her work with the caucus is not yet finished. 

“I promise you I’ll keep pushing and I’ll keep fighting as we embark on this second half of the century with the largest Congressional Black Caucus in history. Our power, our message.”

Tags Congressional Black Caucus Joyce Beatty Marcia Fudge Marilyn Strickland Shirley Chisholm Steven Horsford

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