Black Lawmakers Fan
The 85th Congress (1957–1959) was the first Congress since Reconstruction with four black lawmakers serving simultaneously. Charles Diggs, Jr., of Michigan, William Dawson of Illinois, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., of New York, and Robert Nix, Sr., of Pennsylvania were among an expanding group African-American Democrats representing northern, urban constituencies.
William Levi Dawson
This portrait honors William Levi Dawson’s 1955–1970 chairmanship of the Committee on Government Operations. Dawson preferred to stay out of the limelight and work within institutional pathways to effect civil rights change. Dawson was the first African American to chair a House standing committee, the Committee on Expenditures in Executive Departments, from 1949–1952.
Black Lawmakers Fan
By the mid-1970s, 16 African Americans served in Congress, including one Senator, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, and three women, Shirley Chisholm of New York, Cardiss Collins of Illinois and Barbara Jordan of Texas.
Despite this Jet magazine prediction that Yvonne Brathwaite Burke of California would be the first black woman in Congress, it did not come to pass. However she was among the black women pioneers. She represented her Los Angeles district from 1973–1978, and was the first black woman assigned to the Appropriations Committee in 1975.
Shirley Chisholm Campaign Poster
The first African-American woman to campaign for the presidency, Shirley Chisholm of New York ran with the slogan of “Unbought and Unbossed.” This 1972 campaign poster featured her famous mantra, declaring her independence from special interests and machine politics.
Representative Shirley Chisholm of New York became the first African-American woman in the House when she was elected in 1968 from a newly reconfigured, majority-black district in Brooklyn, New York. Ebony magazine featured the lawmaker in an article titled, “New Faces in Congress.”
Shirley Anita Chisholm
Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress, represented a Brooklyn district for more than a decade. In 2009, the House of Representatives honored her pathbreaking service with a newly commissioned portrait. Congresswoman Chisholm’s independence and outspokenness are on full display in the portrait’s bold portrayal of the legendary lawmaker.
Just after his election in 1964, John Conyers, Jr., of Michigan appeared on the cover of Jet magazine. Conyers continues to represent his Detroit constituency.
William (Bill) Gray III
Serving a total of nearly 13 years in the House, William (Bill) Gray III of Pennsylvania became the first African American to serve as Majority Whip. This portrait honors his chairmanship of the Committee on Budget, from 1985– 1988.
Oscar De Priest Handbill
Representative Oscar De Priest addressed a group of supporters at Paul Laurence Dunbar Junior High in Dayton, Ohio. Breaking racial barriers when he became the first African American elected to Congress in nearly three decades, De Priest served as a symbol of hope for African Americans and spoke at venues across the nation.
Ronald V. Dellums
Ronald V. Dellums’s service as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee is commemorated in this portrait. A strong advocate of peace and civil rights, Dellums was the first African-American Member to lead this committee.
Scenes at the National Capitol During a Session of Congress (detail)
In this detail of a 1889 print entitled “Scenes at the National Capitol During a Session of Congress,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated documented the great interest of African Americans in observing Congress. Although no official segregation laws existed, in practice the visitors’ galleries in both the House and Senate were segregated by gender and race.
Augustus (Gus) Hawkins
Commissioned upon his retirement in 1990, Augustus (Gus) Hawkins’s Chairman portrait honors his service in the Committee on Education and Labor. The painting includes symbols of his greatest pursuits in public life: civil rights, emblemized by the Abraham Lincoln bookend, and children’s welfare and education, indicated by a copy of Opening Doors for America’s Children, a report published by the National Commission on Children, established in 1989.
Ralph Metcalfe Newspaper Photograph
Featured here in a 1933 news photograph at a college track meet, Ralph Metcalfe was an Olympic track star in both the 1932 and 1936 summer games. In 1970, he was elected as a Representative for Illinois. As a Member, Metcalfe worked to sever ties with the Chicago political machine, working towards greater political autonomy for the city’s voters.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives, Photography Collection About this object
In 1950, Parren Mitchell of Maryland successfully sued the University of Maryland at College Park for admission, and became the school’s first African-American graduate student. Twenty years later, he was elected to the first of eight consecutive terms in the House, representing a Baltimore district, during which he served as Chair of the Committee on Small Business.
Powell's "Keep the Faith, Baby!" Record Jacket
New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.’s, Keep the Faith, Baby! record indicated the popularity of the Congressman’s civil rights message, as well as his determination to publicize his views.
Joseph Rainey, the first African-American Member of Congress, is depicted in this posthumous portrait overlooking the National Mall and the unfinished Washington Monument. The unfinished monument, like Rainey’s service in the House, illustrates the continual development of democracy in America.
Unmasking the Civil Rights Bill Pamphlet
This pamphlet, Unmasking the Civil Rights Bill, was circulated in 1964, and presented the dissenting view of six Judiciary Committee members, E.E. Willis, E.L. Forrester, William Tuck, Robert Ashmore, John Dowdy, and Basil Whitener. The text argues that anti-discrimination regulation would undermine the individual freedoms of all citizens, and that desegregation would cause great harm to businesses, farmers, and labor unions.