A legislative voice for black Americans, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) traces its roots to an organization known as the Democratic Select Committee (DSC). Founded in 1969, the DSC was formed in order to facilitate communication among black representatives and with the congressional leadership in the House. In 1970, the DSC sought to meet with President Richard Nixon in order to discuss the concerns of blacks in the United States. However, the group was denied a meeting with the White House. As a result of this action, the newly-formed CBC boycotted the State of the Union address in February 1971.
The Congressional Black Caucus finally met with President Nixon on March 25, 1971. At the meeting, the CBC made sixty recommendations for executive action on a range of issues concerning black America. The meeting gave the CBC visibility and confirmed the Congressional Black Caucus as a legislative voice for black Americans. The president’s response to the concerns of the CBC was a 115-page report. However, the CBC felt that it failed to introduce new policy about their concerns. In Congress, CBC member Rep. Charles C. Diggs, Jr. (D-MI) presented the CBC’s formal response on June 3, 1971. The response, entitled, “A Report to the Nation,” expressed the CBC’s disappointment with the report and with the White House. Following their groundbreaking meeting with President Nixon, the CBC began sponsoring meetings and conferences around the country on significant issues affecting black Americans.
The following year, Louis Stokes (D-OH) presented Congress with the Black Declaration of Independence and the Black Bill of Rights. In the Black Bill of Rights, presented to Congress on June 5, 1972, the CBC stated their concerns about jobs, foreign policy, education, housing and urban problems, health, minority enterprise, drugs, penal reform, Democratic appointments, justice and civil rights, self-determination for the District of Columbia, and the military. Quoting Congressman William Clay (D-MO), the Declaration proudly proclaimed, “We have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies—just permanent interests.”
Since its inception in 1971, the CBC has introduced and sponsored legislation on a range of issues, including voting rights, employment, education, health care and foreign policy. Making their legislative agenda known to the White House and in Congress, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been able to advance black political interests in the United States for more than thirty-five years.