Congressional Black Caucus history

1863 — Emancipation Proclamation frees the slaves held in the Confederate states.

1865 — 13th Amendment abolishes slavery.

1868 — 14th Amendment gives all citizens equal protection under the law.

1865 to 1887 — Reconstruction Era: 17 black men are elected to the House of Representatives and two to the Senate, all from the Old South (the former Confederate states) and all Republicans. In total, 139 African-Americans have been elected or appointed to serve in the U.S. Congress. 

1877 — the federal government abandons Reconstruction and removes federal troops from the Old South. The Southern states enact “Jim Crow” laws to restrict black freedoms, including voting.

1889 to 1897 — five black men, from South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, all Republicans, are elected to the House, none to the Senate.

1897 to 1929 — no black Americans elected to either chamber of Congress.

1910 to 1940 — large numbers of blacks move from the South, mainly to the cities of the North and the Midwest, where large numbers, especially during the Great Depression, switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

1929 to 1963 — seven black men (one Republican and six Democrats) are elected to the House. Three are from Illinois and one each is from New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and California. None are from the Old South. 

1964 — the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Passage of the act ended the application of Jim Crow laws, which had been upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the Court held that racial segregation purported to be "separate but equal" was constitutional.  

1965 — the Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in voting, making it illegal to deny anyone the right to vote based on race. Because of this and the Civil Rights Act, black voting increases as does black congressional representation

1966 — the first black senator since Reconstruction, Edward Brooke III, a Republican from Massachusetts, is elected. There have been two elected black senators since — Carol Moseley Braun (D—Ill.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.)

1968 — the first black woman, Shirley Chisholm, a New York Democrat, is elected to the House and serves 7 terms 

1969 — the black House delegation having doubled from 5 to 10 members from the 90th to the 91st Congress, members form the Democratic Select Committee, the forerunner to the Congressional Black Caucus

1971 — 13 black Members of Congress form the Congressional Black Caucus. Two of those founders — Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) are still in Congress and the CBC.

1975 — CBC begins advocating for a Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday

1976 — The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation is established, with a focus on education, economic development, health and programs addressing Africa. The CBC Fellows Program, to assist black graduate students to pursue careers in public policy, is also established. 

1983 — President Reagan signs the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday into law

1986 — The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, pushed by the CBC and calling for sanctions against South Africa, overrides a Reagan veto and becomes law. The act imposed commercial sanctions on South Africa, which eventually led to the repeal of apartheid laws and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

1994 — The key provisions of a bill introduced in the House by the CBC calling for increased sanctions on Haiti in wake of the military ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide are adopted by President Clinton. Clinton’s policy returns Aristide to the presidency.

2005 — CBC Chairman Mel Watt (D-N.C.) introduced The Hurricane Katrina Recovery, Reclamation, Restoration, 

Reconstruction and Reunion Act in response to the devastating storm. It dies in committee but pressures the Bush administration to do more for the poor and minority victims of the hurricane.

2006 — The fourth renewal by Congress of the non-permanent provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, renewed previously in 1970, 1975 and 1982. One of the provisions, Section 5, required “preclearance” by the Department of Justice of any changes to voting laws in certain states with histories of voter discrimination.

2008 — To counter the effects on communities of the Great Recession’s wave of foreclosures, CBC member Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) authors and Congress passes the Neighborhood Stabilization Act.

2010 — In response to a devastating earthquake in Haiti, the CBC becomes instrumental in relief efforts, leading the fights for increased U.S. aid to the country and for canceling Haiti’s international debt.

2012 — CBC introduces the Trayvon Martin Resolution to honor the life of the slain Florida teen and call for the repeal of "Stand Your Ground" gun laws in the states that have them.

2013 — The Supreme Court invalidates section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, which designated the states that required “preclearance” under Section 5, thus rendering Section 5 impotent. Added to its ongoing efforts to protect voting rights, the CBC, led by Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and John Lewis (D-Ga.),, begins devising legislative means of restoring the VRA’s preclearance clout.


Library of Congress website -- African American historyLibrary of Congress -- Congressional Research ServiceU.S. House of Representatives website -- History, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 by Eric Foner, HarperCollins 1988, Congressional Black Caucus website -- Media Kit