The legislative agendas of African-American Members in the post-1970 era reflected the diversity of their committee assignments and the range of interests within the general membership of Congress. Most sought to advance a broad progressive legislative agenda supported by advocacy groups such as the National Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—extending voting rights protections, improving educational and economic opportunities, fostering urban renewal, and providing access to better health care. Increasingly, African American Members were emboldened to pursue legislative agendas that reflected the unique needs of their constituencies or their personal positions on issues.
Extensions of civil rights era voting protections were a touchstone for African-American Members of Congress. Efforts to retain and expand upon the provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965—which Barbara Jordan once referred to as the “frontispiece” of the civil rights movement—provided continuity between Members of the civil rights generation and their successors in the post-1970 generation of African Americans in Congress. Two extensions were of particular importance: the Voting Rights Acts of 1975 and 1982.
The Voting Rights Act of 1975 strengthened the provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (as well as its 1970 extension).72 The House passed the act on June 4, 1975, by a vote of 341 to 70. After Senate passage, and after the House accepted some Senate amendments, President Gerald R. Ford signed the measure into law on August 6, 1975—the 10th anniversary of the original landmark bill. As with earlier acts, jurisdictions covered by the 1975 extension had to submit to the U.S. Attorney General any changes in local and state election law for “preclearance” in which federal authorities determined whether the proposed modification to the law had discriminatory intent. The 1975 act also increased jurisdictions covered by the act to include locations in the North and West. Moreover, it applied not just to African Americans, but also “language minorities,” including Spanish speakers, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. It required bilingual elections in areas where there were large numbers of voters whose English literacy was below the national average.73
African-American Members played a prominent part in this debate. “The voting rights act may have overcome blatant discriminatory practices,” noted Barbara Jordan, testifying before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Constitutional Rights. But she added, “it has yet to overcome subtle discriminatory practices.” Charles Rangel agreed that the protections were needed. “Malevolent local government must not be exposed to any temptation to take back the political rights and powers that have so recently come to southern blacks,” Rangel said.74Andrew Young pointed to vastly improved registration numbers in the seven southern states covered by the original 1965 act (29 percent registered in 1964 had expanded to 56 percent in 1972) as well as in the number of elected black officials in the South (72 in 1965 compared with 1,587 in 1975). “The remarkable effect of this act is that it has a preventative effect,” Young observed. “There are some reports that the threat of suing examiners has a deterrent effect—that local registrars began to register black voters so that federal examiners would be kept out.”75
The 1982 Voting Rights Act extension provided another victory for the civil rights movement and also paved the way for the expansion of African-American representation in Congress in the 1990s.76 During floor debate—prior to overwhelming passage by the House—a number of black Members of Congress spoke on behalf of the bill. Representative Bill Clay Sr. cast the debate in broad terms: “Are we willing to continue our forward momentum in America’s bold and noble attempt to achieve a free and just democratic society? Or, will we embrace the politics of reversal and retreat; the super rich against the wretchedly poor, the tremendously strong against the miserably weak?”77
The bill extended the act’s major provisions for 25 years. It also established a procedure by which jurisdictions that maintained a clean voting rights record for at least a decade could petition a panel of judges to be removed from the preclearance list. The bilingual election materials requirements established in the 1975 act were also enacted for another decade. Mickey Leland, who succeeded Representative Jordan in her Houston-centered district, addressed the House in Spanish to make a point about the need for extending those provisions. “Many of you cannot understand me,” Leland said in Spanish, “and if you cannot understand me . . . nor can you understand 17 percent of all the adult workers in the Southwest. . . . And even though you cannot understand me when I speak Spanish maybe you can begin to understand the hypocrisy of our political system which excludes the participation of Hispanic-Americans only for having a different culture and speaking a different language.”78
Most significant, the Voting Rights Act of 1982 established that certain voting rights violations could be proven to be the result of voting modifications, even if intent could not be established. That section of the bill overturned a 1980 Supreme Court decision in Mobile v. Bolden that found a violation could be proven only if the intent to discriminate could be substantiated. This legislative instrument provided the basis for the creation of majority-black districts following the 1990 Census, particularly in southern states.79
In 2006 the Voting Rights Act was once again extended for 25 years.80 Many Republicans opposed the extension and emphasized that the districts which were required to meet the preclearance standards of Section 5 were being perpetually punished for voter repression that occurred in the past. They also objected to the bilingual voter assistance provisions of the law.81 As a compromise with the bill’s most fervent opponents, House Republican leadership allowed four amendments to reach the floor that might kill the measure, but all of the amendments were rejected, and the law preserved the preclearance provision in Section 5 and mandated the printing of bilingual ballots.82
Despite the 2006 extension, opponents of the Voting Rights Act continued to challenge parts of the law, only this time in the courts. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the coverage formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which determined which counties would be subjected to federal preclearance, was unconstitutional. Citing methodological deficiencies in establishing the coverage formula, the 5–4 majority rendered the preclearance provisions inoperative.83
Another primary area of legislative concern for numerous black Members of this generation was the desire to promote economic opportunities for African Americans as a means to further the political civil rights advances won in the 1960s. The first imperative listed in the CBC’s “Black Bill of Rights” was the demand for “Jobs and Income.” The CBC declared that all Americans had a “right to live” and called for a full employment plan and a guaranteed national income.84 Representative Floyd Flake of New York noted, “We in America have created a Third World within our borders, if we conglomerate all of the rural and all of the urban communities in this Nation who are not able to provide the basic necessities for people who are part of those communities.”85 Many of the Members profiled in this generation supported an assortment of programs designed to advance African-American economic equality, including job training programs, urban renewal projects, affirmative action programs, and so-called “empowerment zones”—urban and rural areas designated to receive federal grants and loans for job training and tax incentives for minority-owned businesses. At times the CBC championed these positions; at others instances, individual Members took the lead.
The CBC consistently made the economic advancement of African Americans a top priority in its legislative agenda. For example, the caucus strongly backed the extension of the Office of Economic Opportunity programs under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.86 From 1974 to 1975, Representative Gus Hawkins and Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota drafted a measure to drastically cut unemployment in the United States—which had reached 8 percent among the general population and more than 13 percent for nonwhites by the mid-1970s.87 Concerned about the disproportionate joblessness rate for African Americans, each member of the CBC cosponsored the Humphrey–Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978.88 Among its provisions, the act declared the federal government’s intention to promote full employment, real income gains, price stability, and a balanced budget. Signed into law on October 28, 1978, the final version of the bill failed to include the more ambitious full employment goals drafted by Humphrey and Hawkins, leading some analysts to describe the legislation as “an empty symbol.”89 But the CBC’s ability to persuade President James Earl (Jimmy) Carter to publicly support a bill linked so closely to the caucus resulted in a noteworthy victory.90 “We would never have struggled so hard to get this act passed if we did not consider it significant,” declared Representative Parren Mitchell of Maryland.
Mitchell, the brother of longtime NAACP lobbyist Clarence Mitchell Jr., used a networking strategy to help push through the House legislation aimed at business development in African-American communities. Primarily interested in promoting economic opportunities in inner cities, Mitchell assembled a “brain trust” of national advisers—mostly businessmen, lawyers, bankers, and economists—to make recommendations on policy and legislation.91 The CBC embraced this approach, often asking policy experts for help crafting legislation. Mitchell also leveraged his encyclopedic knowledge of House procedures—a skill many CBC Members refined during the modern period to promote the organization’s legislative agenda. Called the “Little General” for his ability to organize and coordinate support for key legislation, the Baltimore Representative attached an amendment to a $4 billion public works program that required state and local governments applying for federal contracts to reserve 10 percent of the money for minority-owned companies.92 Signed into law in 1977, the measure constituted not only a personal triumph for Mitchell but also a significant early legislative victory for the CBC. That success lent credibility to the group’s coalition-building efforts and burnished its reputation for using House procedures to achieve its legislative goals.
During the 1970s, the CBC sporadically presented budget proposals that emphasized increased spending for domestic programs. In 1981, however, when President Ronald W. Reagan called for alternatives to his fiscal plan which emphasized defense spending, the CBC drafted a detailed budget that underscored its priorities.93 The CBC plan received national attention but little backing in the House. Although the CBC’s budget gained little traction, it quickly became an annual event; every year the CBC has offered an alternative budget with consistent calls to increase federal funding for domestic programs, to slash defense spending, and to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. “Even in defeat we have a responsibility to fight the fight,” Dellums remarked about the persistent failure of an alternative annual budget to attract meaningful support in the House. “We have to articulate the alternative.”94
Welfare policy proved to be a contentious subject during the latter decades of the 20th century. The CBC often found itself in conflict with the Reagan administration during the 1980s. Reagan met only once with the CBC—a marked reversal from the Carter administration, which, while it did not always back the organization’s initiatives, regularly consulted African-American Members.95 At the heart of this struggle lay the CBC’s fundamental disagreement with President Reagan’s core agenda: vastly increasing the defense budget to outpace the Soviet Union in a climactic Cold War arms race while scaling back social programs established in the 1960s.
Not all African-American Members were consonant on welfare, however. As chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Assistance in the 1980s, Harold E. Ford Sr. proposed a welfare overhaul plan that linked benefits to work. Dubbed the “Family Support Program,” Ford’s proposal mandated parents of children six years and older to complete education, training, or work requirements to receive aid. In many respects Ford’s plan foreshadowed welfare reforms enacted in the mid-1990s during the Clinton administration.96 In the 104th Congress (1995–1997), the new Republican majority in both chambers pushed for massive reforms to the nation’s social safety net. President Clinton agreed to sign the bill into law, emphasizing the concomitant reduction in federal spending that would accompany the bill’s passage.97 The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 tied eligibility to work requirements, placed restrictions on aid to immigrants, and gave states control over the distribution of funds. After a contentious debate in the House, only two African-American Democrats voted for the bill.98
District of Columbia
Another issue of ongoing importance to black Members of Congress was the matter of representation and self-government, or “home rule,” for the city of Washington, DC. Since its creation after the Residence Act of 1790, the nation’s capital had been administered by a patchwork of governing bodies: an appointed mayor and elected city council (both a board of aldermen and common council); briefly, a territorial government in 1871, when the city was designated the “District of Columbia”; a presidentially appointed commission; and congressional committees. After 1960, because of its new majority-black population, congressional debates about representation and the administration of the District resonated within the larger African-American community.
In 1967 Representative Charles Diggs, an ardent advocate for Washingtonians, became chairman of a subcommittee of what was then the standing Committee on the District of Columbia. Six years later, he chaired the full committee—symbolically marking the end of the exclusive history of white congressional control over the capital. In 1970, with Diggs’s leadership, the House passed the District of Columbia Act, which reinstituted the post of Delegate to represent the city in the House. The last time Washington, DC, had a Delegate was 1875.99 In March 1971, District residents elected Walter Fauntroy, a minister and civil rights activist, as the city’s first congressional Delegate in nearly a century.
Fauntroy tirelessly advocated “home rule” in the District of Columbia. The CBC, seeking to increase the independence of the predominantly African-American population, joined him. Fauntroy oversaw a lobbying campaign aimed at building support from white Members who represented southern districts with a substantial black constituency. The effort prevailed. In December 1973, Congress passed a compromise measure—the District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act—that gave the District limited self-rule, permitting citizens to elect a mayor and a city council.100
Based partially on the success of the “Fauntroy strategy,” the CBC later created the Action-Alert Communications Network (AACN) to mobilize support from non-black legislators on a range of policy issues affecting black Americans.101 Encompassing the National Black Leadership Roundtable and the Black Leadership Forum, the AACN tapped into a network of national black organizations suited for grassroots campaigns capable of applying pressure on white leaders with large African-American populations. “We are organizing ourselves to impact the political process, to reach out on a very careful basis in coalition with those whose interests coincide with ours,” Fauntroy remarked.102
Other African-American Members played key roles in later decades. Julian Dixon, a District native who represented a Los Angeles-area House seat, became chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the District of Columbia. During the 1980s and 1990s, Dixon was one of the city’s primary congressional allies during an era of budget woes. In 1991, after Fauntroy’s retirement from the House, Eleanor Holmes Norton won election as Delegate. An advocate for full congressional voting rights for the District, Norton has served as the District’s Delegate since the 102nd Congress (1991–1993).
African-American Members of Congress often used their influence to pass legislation commemorating great leaders and seminal events in the civil rights movement and to call attention to unrecognized black contributions to American history. Such efforts included the designation of February as Black History Month and, in the 1990s and 2000s, the awarding of Congressional Gold Medals to distinguished African-American citizens. Some African-American Members also called for Congress to apologize for the institution of slavery and to study remedies, including reparations, for the harm done to African Americans by slavery and subsequent racial discrimination.103
One landmark commemorative achievement was the designation of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a national holiday. That effort began only days after King’s death in 1968 when Representative Conyers introduced legislation to designate a federal holiday in his honor; Conyers sponsored similar measures in each successive Congress for the next 15 years.104 Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts offered a compromise measure in the Senate to mark King’s birthday as a “day of commemoration” when it became clear that Conyers and the CBC could not rally enough support for their bill in the House.105 His alternative measure failed to make headway in the Senate. By the mid-1970s, the CBC had elevated the King holiday to a major legislative priority. The caucus directed a successful campaign to build congressional support and to increase public knowledge of the bill.106 In 1979 the legislation came close to passing the House. But the CBC withdrew the bill when an attached amendment called for the holiday to be observed on a Sunday instead of the originally proposed observance of King’s birthday on January 15, a compromise measure for Members concerned about the high cost of shutting down the federal government.107
In the 98th Congress (1983–1985), first-term Representative Katie Hall of Indiana, chairwoman of the Post Office and Civil Service’s Subcommittee on Census and Population—the panel with jurisdiction over the bill—provided the necessary spark when the CBC tapped her to introduce the legislation and to manage its consideration on the floor. Hall courted detractors by moving the proposed public holiday from a fixed date—King’s January 15 birthday—to the third Monday of January to prevent government offices from opening twice in one week, thereby saving money.108 The House passed her version of the King holiday bill by a vote of 338 to 90; the Senate followed suit, 78 to 22. President Reagan, who initially opposed the legislation, signed the bill into law on November 2, 1983.109 Some viewed the episode as a symbolic victory, but it constituted an important triumph for the CBC, which marshaled public support and exerted decisive institutional pressure to overcome an unsupportive President and opposition in the Senate.
African-American Members also undertook numerous other efforts to recognize civil rights icons and distinguished public figures. In 1977 singer Marian Anderson became the first African American to be awarded a Congressional Gold Medal—the highest honor the nation can bestow on outstanding citizens.110 Representative Julia Carson of Indiana played a central role securing legislation to recognize Rosa Parks, whose act of civil disobedience—refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955—galvanized the modern civil rights movement. Additionally, Congress conferred an unprecedented honor on Parks by passing a resolution to have her body lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda from October 30 to 31, 2005—a distinction normally reserved for Presidents, military leaders, and other statesmen. Parks was the first woman ever accorded this honor. United States Capitol Police Officer Jacob J. Chestnut Jr. was the first African American in history to lie in honor; while on duty in July 1998, Officer Chestnut and Detective John M. Gibson were killed by a gunman in the Capitol.111
In the 21st century, African-American Members of Congress pressed successfully to better recognize the contributions of black men and women to congressional history in the art of the Capitol. Portraits of pioneering Representatives Joseph Rainey of South Carolina and Shirley Chisholm, as well as Senator Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi, were commissioned. Congress also created a task force to document the work of enslaved African Americans who labored to build the Capitol itself, and dedicated the main space in the Capitol Visitor Center, Emancipation Hall, in their honor.112
One of the most significant efforts to document and convey the African-American experience was the establishment of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Beginning in 1991, Representative John Lewis introduced legislation in every Congress to create a museum dedicated to African American history and culture.113 A 2001 law established a presidential commission to plan the construction and design of the museum, and two years later, Congress passed legislation establishing the NMAAHC within the Smithsonian Institution.114 The museum opened in 2016.
African-American Foreign Policy: Africa, Apartheid, and Beyond
Since the 1950s, African-American Members of Congress viewed international affairs through a complex frame of reference. Even the most outspoken Members, such as Adam Clayton Powell, broadly endorsed the Cold War containment strategy and the necessity to combat communist international aggression. But African Americans were keenly aware of the gap between American rhetoric about the necessity to defend democratic freedoms abroad and the practice of racial segregation at home. Further, they questioned the federal government’s generous support for authoritarian regimes abroad, particularly in sub-Saharan African nations which were emerging from under the yoke of decades of European imperialism.
In the post-1970 period, leading African-American Members of Congress questioned the massive budgetary outlays that funded America’s decades-long struggle against the Kremlin. Representatives Dellums and Mitchell warned that excessive spending on Cold War initiatives was especially detrimental to minority groups, postponing or eliminating long-delayed domestic social programs and urban renewal projects. Dellums opposed the military buildup under the Reagan administration in the 1980s and sharply criticized nuclear weapons programs.
No single foreign policy issue united African Americans in Congress more than their efforts to overturn the South African government’s system of apartheid, the country’s strict program of racial segregation that began in 1948 and was imposed by whites descended from colonial settlers. Even before the formation of the CBC in 1971, Charles Diggs used his position as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa to call attention to racial discrimination in South Africa. Other black Members followed suit, and ending apartheid became a central policy concern. During the next 15 years, the CBC oversaw a torrent of activism to enact economic sanctions against South Africa.
According to political scientist Alvin Tillery, Representative Powell kindled Diggs’s interest in African foreign policy.115 Diggs, who became the first black Member to travel to Africa (1957) and the first to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee (1959), was known as “Mr. Africa” because of his knowledge of sub-Saharan issues. When the Detroit-area Representative was appointed chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa in 1969, he effectively used his position to draw attention to the continent. “I think if I had any one priority, it is to try to put Africa in proper perspective, to try to get the attention of policy makers in the government, the attention of the American investors in Africa and the attention of the American public, in general, and to arouse the substantive interest of black Americans,” Diggs remarked.116
Diggs held a series of hearings on South Africa and led many fact-finding missions during his tenure on the Foreign Affairs Committee to highlight what he described as “an appalling amount of racial injustice in South Africa—a blatant, ever-present, and all-pervasive discrimination based on race, color, and creed.”117 From 1969 to 1971, he led an unsuccessful charge against the renewal of a special U.S. sugar quota for South Africa. “I have been in over 37 African countries, and the first question that is always asked at a press conference is when we are going to implement our pronouncements in the United Nations, and stop being inconsistent, by providing this kind of subsidy to South Africa, which is one of the most racist countries in the world.”118 Diggs cosponsored legislation calling for an end to the subsidy.119 He also kept apartheid in the congressional spotlight with his criticism of the labor conditions of American companies in South Africa. He faulted the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and major U.S. carmakers for the discriminatory practices in their South African facilities. In 1971 he introduced a measure to implement fair employment practices for U.S. firms eligible for government contracts. Diggs also urged an end to new American investment in South Africa to protest apartheid.120
With the establishment of the CBC in 1971, Diggs cultivated the group’s international agenda. “Diggs being the great leader that he was reckoned that getting us involved in foreign policy would make a big splash on the Hill,” Representative Clay recalled.121 The CBC adopted this strategy to lend credibility to the fledgling caucus, and from its inception took an active stance in the anti-apartheid movement as well as other anti-colonial struggles. CBC members were critical of the U.S. government’s economic aid and trade agreements with the white minority government in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Portugal, which was clinging to its imperial control of Angola, Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea (now the Republic of Guinea-Bissau).122
In February 1971, Ronald Dellums, on behalf of the CBC, introduced the first bill imposing economic sanctions against South Africa.123 Though the measure had little chance of passing the House, Dellums recollected, “Nonetheless, we had raised the issue before the elected representatives of the American people, and our resolution provided an organizing device for those on the outside to use to begin to build pressure on Congress for legislative action.”124 The anti-apartheid bill emerged from a petition drafted by employees from a major U.S. camera and film company, who demanded that the corporation cease operations in South Africa. The company, which produced photographs for the mandatory identity passbooks black South Africans were forced to carry and which were a major symbol of the racial oppression prevalent in the country, eventually bowed to public pressure and withdrew its business.125
In 1975 the CBC helped establish the Black Forum on Foreign Policy, a legislative support group interested in better representation of black interests abroad. The Black Forum’s early mission epitomized a “detached study group” rather than a formal lobbying assembly.126 At a 1976 CBC conference, caucus members recognized the need for a more influential vehicle to shape American foreign policy in Africa and the Caribbean. The new lobbying group, renamed TransAfrica, began operations in Washington, DC, in 1978. TransAfrica employed a grassroots strategy that mobilized local black leaders who were interested in foreign policy. The group also adopted an aggressive posture on South Africa, refusing to accept donations from U.S. corporations with business ties to South Africa and calling for tough economic sanctions against the African nation.127
TransAfrica received a boost when Representative Andrew Young, one of the primary architects of the Black Forum on Foreign Policy, resigned from Congress in 1977 to accept President Jimmy Carter’s appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Young became a conduit for black lobbyists to the Oval Office. But while TransAfrica advocated a boycott by American businesses in South Africa, Young and the Carter administration maintained that promoting U.S. economic involvement in South Africa would have a liberalizing effect on the white-controlled regime.128 At the time, the internal resistance movement against apartheid had been sparked by the Soweto uprising of June 1976. When students gathered for a mass protest to oppose a new government regulation that instructors teach school in Afrikaans, the government brutally dispersed protestors; in the ensuing riots, hundreds were killed, including many children. The event shocked international observers and initiated a long period of internal turmoil in South Africa.
In 1981 the Reagan administration rejected efforts by the United Nations to impose sanctions on South Africa, instead choosing to implement a policy of “constructive engagement,” or maintaining diplomatic and economic relations with South Africa while advocating for gradual domestic reforms. Fearful that Reagan’s 1984 re-election would be interpreted as a mandate for the status quo of racial discrimination in South Africa, TransAfrica’s executive director Randall Robinson changed the tenor of the movement.129 On November 21, just weeks after the President’s landslide victory, Robinson, DC Delegate Walter Fauntroy, and Mary Frances Berry from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights staged a sit-in at the South African Embassy in Washington, DC.130 The resulting arrests of the high-profile protesters garnered national attention and sparked a new “direct action” approach by TransAfrica and the CBC. Fauntroy described the demonstration as an act of “moral witness” and indicated that a “national campaign” against apartheid would follow; a few days after the incident, Robinson, Fauntroy, and Berry formed the Free South Africa Movement (FSAM) to publicize racial inequality in South Africa and pressure the Reagan administration to toughen its stance toward the apartheid regime.131
The FSAM orchestrated a series of demonstrations outside the South African Embassy that tapped into the long domestic civil rights tradition of nonviolent protest. Charles Hayes of Illinois, Clay, and Dellums were among the first Representatives who were arrested. “I knew immediately why Fauntroy was calling,” Dellums remarked, recalling the coordinated effort by the FSAM to draw attention to South Africa. “ ‘Hello, Walter’ I said. ‘It’s a good day to go to jail. Where do you want me to be and what time?’ He laughed. ‘How did you know?’ ‘I just knew that it would one day be my turn, so when you called it was pretty easy to figure out why.’”132 The movement drew black and white Americans from all walks of life: national and local leaders, celebrities, teachers and students, and even Members of Congress who had been ambivalent about the issue. “It was very interesting to see colleagues from both sides of the aisle and of all races, who had previously paid little attention to our efforts, scramble to get arrested in front of the South African embassy and introduce sanctions when the [effects of the] movement hit home in their districts,” Dellums later observed.133 The protests eventually spread to other American cities beyond the South African Embassy in Washington, DC, and kept apartheid in the public eye.134
More than any other congressional cohort, African-American Members consistently drew attention to apartheid. Between the 92nd and 99th Congresses (1971–1987), black Representatives introduced more than 100 pieces of legislation concerning South Africa, encompassing issues such as diplomatic relations, economic sanctions, and trade restrictions.135 Representative Bill Gray, chairman of the Committee on the Budget, compared the situation in South Africa to the history of segregation in the United States. “It took us 200, 300 years to eradicate apartheid here by law,” Gray observed. “People forget that only 20 years ago, when I came here to Washington, DC, as a boy, I couldn’t go into the downtown hotels. . . . We are only 20 years away from our own story, and that plays a part in our double standard” toward South Africa.136
In 1985 Gray introduced a bill endorsed by the House leadership banning new loans and implementing limited economic sanctions in South Africa to “stop the future financing of apartheid.”137 The House, which approved the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1985 by a vote of 295 to 127, soundly defeated a stronger disinvestment substitute put forth by Representative Dellums and backed by the CBC. The next month the Senate overwhelmingly passed a weaker version of the House anti-apartheid bill by a vote of 80 to 12.138 Wary of the mounting public pressure for action against South Africa, President Reagan avoided a direct confrontation with Congress and a potential veto override by signing an executive order in September that included some of the congressionally approved sanctions. Gray described the action as “an ill-disguised and ill-advised attempt to circumvent an overwhelmingly bipartisan consensus in Congress.”139
The push for a comprehensive sanctions bill against South Africa reached a crescendo in the second session of the 99th Congress. Gray’s anti-apartheid bill made it to the House Floor again for a vote, where it was expected to pass. For a second time, Dellums offered a substitute. In an unexpected move, the House approved Dellums’s measure by a voice vote. The bill called for a trade embargo and total disinvestment; it was the first legislation that mandated a withdrawal of American companies to pass either chamber. Stunned and elated, Dellums proclaimed, “We haven’t simply altered the debate on apartheid, we’ve changed the environment. Whatever the dynamics of that moment, its effect can’t be changed.”140 A Senate bill sponsored by Richard Lugar of Indiana, which passed 84 to 14, resembled Gray’s more modest anti-apartheid legislation. In the interest of securing passage of a sanctions bill, CBC members, including Dellums, supported Lugar’s measure, which passed the House in September 1986 by a 308 to 77 vote.141 President Reagan vetoed the anti-apartheid legislation, but on October 2, 1986, the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (CAAA) of 1986 became law when the Senate overrode the veto, following the House.142 The historic legislation marked the first congressional override of a presidential veto on a major foreign policy issue since the enactment of the War Powers Resolution in 1973.143 Mickey Leland observed, “This is probably the greatest victory we’ve ever experienced. The American people have spoken and will be heard around the world.”144
After the passage of the CAAA, black Members continued their fight to abolish apartheid. In 1986, for instance, Gray led a delegation of Representatives to tour South Africa and observe the effects of the sanctions.145 Leading the anti-apartheid movement on the Hill, Dellums persisted in introducing legislation for comprehensive economic sanctions.146 When President George H. W. Bush considered rescinding sanctions against South Africa, Dellums and the CBC remained firm in their conviction that “sanctions should be lifted only when the oppressed people of South Africa say they should be lifted.”147 With the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the establishment of majority rule in South Africa in 1994, the CBC achieved its longtime goal of contributing to the abolishment of apartheid.
72Voting Rights Act Amendments, Public Law 94–73, 89 Stat. 400 (1975). For a detailed legislative history, see “Congress Clears Voting Rights Act Extension,” CQ Almanac, 1975, 31st ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1976): 521–532, http://library.cqpress.com. For a listing of major civil rights bills, see Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Constitutional Amendments and Major Civil Rights Acts of Congress Referenced in Black Americans in Congress,” https://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/BAIC/Historical-Data/Constitutional-Amendments-and-Legislation/.
73Representative Barbara Jordan was instrumental in sponsoring a bill to expand the definition of literacy tests to include election registration materials printed only in English in areas with large non-English-speaking populations—in the case of her Houston district, Hispanics. “I am persuaded that the only means available to language minority citizens, and specifically Mexican-Americans in Texas, to gain equal access to the franchise is through application of the remedies of the Voting Rights Act.” See “Congress Clears Voting Rights Act Extension”: 525.
75Ibid., 527. See also Young’s floor remarks and statistics in the Congressional Record, House, 94th Cong., 1st sess. (2 June 1975): 16241–16242.
76Voting Rights Act Amendments, Public Law 97–205, 96 Stat. 131 (1982). For a legislative history of the bill, see “Voting Rights Act Extended, Strengthened,” CQ Almanac, 1982, 38th ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1983): 373–377, http://library.cqpress.com.
77Congressional Record, House, 97th Cong., 1st sess. (5 October 1981): 23204.
78Ibid., 23187–23188. For comments by Cardiss Collins and Shirley Chisholm, see pages 23199–23201, 23202–23203.
79Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55 (1980).
80Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act, Public Law 109–246, 120 Stat. 577 (2006). “Historic Voting Rights Act Extended,” CQ Almanac, 2006, 62nd ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 2007), http://library.cqpress.com.
81“Historic Voting Rights Act Extended,” CQ Almanac, 2006, 62nd ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 2007), http://library.cqpress.com; Ari Berman, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America (New York: Picador, 2015): 239.
82“Historic Voting Rights Act Extended,” CQ Almanac, 2006, 62nd ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 2007), http://library.cqpress.com.
83Berman, Give Us the Ballot: 280; Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 2 (2013).
84Austin Scott, “Black Caucus Warns Democrats,” 2 June 1972, Washington Post: A6.
85Congressional Record, House, 103rd Cong., 1st sess. (28 July 1993): H5431.
86Economic Opportunity Act, Public Law 88–452, 78 Stat. 508 (1964); Barnett, “The Congressional Black Caucus”: 40; Austin Scott, “Blacks Assail Nixon’s Budget,” 1 February 1973, Washington Post: A1; Paul Houston, “Black Caucus Assails Nixon Budget Cuts,” 1 February 1973, Los Angeles Times: 11.
87For U.S. unemployment rates in the post–World War II period, see “Table Ba583-596, Unemployment Rate, by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1947–2000,” in Historical Statistics of the United States, vol. 2: Work and Welfare, ed. Carter et al.: 95.
88Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act, Public Law 95–523, 92 Stat. 1887 (1978); Clay, Just Permanent Interests: Black Americans in Congress, 1870–1991: 95.
89Robert C. Smith, We Have No Leaders: African Americans in the Post-Civil Rights Era (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996): 187–210, quotation on page 206.
90Barbara Reynolds, “Carter Endorses Andy Young, Jobs Bill,” 1 October 1978, Chicago Tribune: 12; Paul Houston, “Black Congressmen, Carter Clash Over Employment Bill,” 27 October 1978, Los Angeles Times: B1; Singh, The Congressional Black Caucus: 86–90.
91Barnett, “The Congressional Black Caucus”: 43; Singh, The Congressional Black Caucus: 84.
92Shirley Washington, Outstanding African Americans of Congress (Washington, DC: U.S. Capitol Historical Society, 1998): 64; Thomas Goldwasser, “Liberal’s Liberal Mitchell Is Fiscal Conservative,” 15 September 1980, Washington Post: A1; Sandra Sugawara, “Retiring Mitchell Still Has Passion for Justice,” 1 December 1985, Washington Post: 37.
93Singh, The Congressional Black Caucus: 97.
94Tom Kenworthy, “Congressional Black Caucus Facing New Circumstances After 20 Years,” 17 September 1989, Washington Post: A22.
95Singh, The Congressional Black Caucus: 93.
96“Top House Democrats Back ‘Workfare,’” 20 March 1987, Associated Press.
97“After 60 Years, Most Control Sent to States,” CQ Almanac, 1996, 52nd ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1997), http://library.cqpress.com.
98Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, Public Law 104–193, 110 Stat. 2105 (1996); “After 60 Years, Most Control Sent to States,” CQ Almanac, 1996, 52nd ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1997), http://library.cqpress.com.
99District of Columbia Act, Public Law 91–405, 84 Stat. 845 (1970). For a historical overview of nonvoting Delegates, including Resident Commissioners, see Earl S. Pomeroy, The Territories of the United States, 1861–1980 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969); Betsy Palmer, “Territorial Delegates to the U.S. Congress: Current Issues and Historical Background,” 6 July 2006, Report RL32340, Congressional Research Service; R. Eric Petersen, “Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico,” 31 March 2005, Report RL31856, Congressional Research Service; Michael Fauntroy, “District of Columbia Delegates to Congress,” 4 April 2001, Report RS20875, Congressional Research Service. See also “At the Starting Gate for the Delegate Race,” 25 September 1970, Washington Post: A24. While the position of Delegate was previously reserved for territories that were likely to become states, the District of Columbia Act of 1970 launched a new trend, creating Delegates for areas without statehood on the legislative horizon: District of Columbia, 1970; U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, 1972; American Samoa, 1978; and the Northern Mariana Islands, 2009. Currently, a Resident Commissioner represents Puerto Rico. See also Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress: 1900–2017 (Washington, DC: Government Publishing Office, 2017).
100“After 8 Years, House Will Weigh District of Columbia Home Rule,” 8 October 1973, New York Times: 22; “Home Rule Bill for Washington Signed,” 25 December, 1973, Los Angeles Times: 4.
101For more information on the AACN, see Charles E. Jones, “Testing a Legislative Strategy: The Congressional Black Caucus’s Action-Alert Communications Network,” Legislative Studies Quarterly 4 (November 1987).
102Singh, The Congressional Black Caucus: 156. For more on the establishment of the AACN, see Thomas A. Johnson, “Black Conferees Establish Network to Influence White Congressman,” 28 May 1979, New York Times: A7; William Raspberry, “A Black Voter Network,” 19 October 1981, Washington Post: A1.
103Such proposals had been considered by Congress since the Reconstruction Era. See Garrine P. Laney, “Proposals for Reparations for African Americans: A Brief Overview,” 22 January 2007, Report RS20740, Congressional Research Service.
104Douglas Reid Weimer, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Commemorative Works and Other Honors Authorized by Congress,” 17 December 2007, Report RL33704, Congressional Research Service.
105Edward W. Brooke, Bridging the Divide: My Life (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007): 178–179.
106Singh, The Congressional Black Caucus: 95.
107Mary Russell, “King Holiday Frustrated,” 6 December 1979, Washington Post: A6.
108Larry Margasak, “Courting Conservatives to Back King Holiday,” 14 August 1983, Associated Press.
109For a detailed account of the legislative history of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, see “Martin Luther King Holiday,” CQ Almanac, 1983, 39th ed. (Washington DC: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1983): 600–602, http://library.cqpress.com. The federal holiday honoring King was first observed in 1986.
110Other black recipients followed, including sports legends, military heroes, and social activists such as boxer Joe Louis (1982), Olympic track and field gold medalist Jesse Owens (1987), General Colin Powell (1991), educator Dr. Dorothy Height (2003), and the Tuskegee Airmen (2006). The award also celebrated the contributions of civil rights leaders and icons Roy Wilkins (1984), the Little Rock Nine (1998), Rosa Parks (1999), and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King (2004). See Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Congressional Gold Medal Recipients,” https://history.house.gov/Institution/Gold-Medal/Gold-Medal-Recipients/; see also Stephen W. Stathis, “Congressional Gold Medals, 1776–2007,” 30 January 2008, Report RL30076, Congressional Research Service.
111See Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Individuals Who Have Lain in State or in Honor,” available at http://history.house.gov/Institution/Lie-In-State/Lie-In-State/.
112S. Con. Res. 130, 106th Cong. (2000).
113Ernie Suggs, “Lewis Pushes for Museum: Georgia Congressman Sets Meeting on How to Preserve Black Legacy,” 15 February 2003, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: E2.
114National Museum of African American History and Culture Act, Public Law 108–184, 117 Stat. 2676 (2003).
115Alvin B. Tillery Jr., “Foreign Policy Activism and Power in the House of Representatives: Black Members of Congress and South Africa,” Studies in American Political Development 20 (Spring 2006): 95–96.
116DuBose, The Untold Story of Charles Diggs: 76.
117Paul Dold, “U.S. Firms in South Africa: New Pressure,” 20 August 1971, Christian Science Monitor: 1.
118Congressional Record, House, 92nd Cong., 1st sess. (10 June 1971): 19110.
119Spencer Rich, “South Africa Sugar Quota Draws Fire,” 16 April 1969, Washington Post: A2. Diggs was not alone in the early battle to bring the issue of racial segregation in South Africa to the House Floor; Louis Stokes of Ohio introduced a measure to terminate the sugar quota during the 91st Congress (1969–1971), and William (Bill) Clay Sr. of Missouri cosponsored a similar bill. When the House voted to extend the South Africa sugar quota in 1971, the CBC voiced its disapproval, characterizing the decision as “complicity with apartheid.” See David E. Rosenbaum, “Sugar Vote Voted by House, 229–128,” 11 June 1971, New York Times: 44.
120Jesse W. Lewis, “Diggs Presses Anti-Apartheid Bill,” 31 March 1972, Washington Post: A2; DuBose, The Untold Story of Charles Diggs: 129–133; Dold, “U.S. Firms in South Africa: New Pressure”; Congressional Record, House, 92nd Cong., 2nd sess. (29 March 1972): 10931.
121Tillery, “Foreign Policy Activism and Power in the House of Representatives: Black Members of Congress and South Africa”: 93.
122Alvin B. Tillery Jr., Between Homeland and Motherland: Africa, U.S. Foreign Policy, and Black Leadership in America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011): 125– 147; “Rep. Diggs Assails Aid to Portugal,” 15 December 1971, Washington Post: A30. For more on the CBC’s role in the anti-apartheid movement, see African American Voices in Congress, accessed 10 October 2018, http://www.avoiceonline.org/aam/.
123Congressional Record, House, 92nd Cong., 2nd sess. (16 February 1972): 4247. In his memoirs, Dellums provides a detailed account of how he and Representative John Conyers met with Polaroid employees to discuss their petition and subsequently drafted a bill to terminate business interests in South Africa and other African countries with discriminatory policies. See Dellums and Halterman, Lying Down With the Lions: 122–124. According to the Congressional Record, Dellums and Conyers first introduced a sanctions bill in December 1971. The bill was re-introduced in February on behalf of the CBC. See Congressional Record, House, 92nd Cong., 1st sess. (15 December 1971): 47236.
124Dellums and Halterman, Lying Down With the Lions: 123; “Polaroid Cuts Off Goods to S. Africa,” 22 November 1977, Los Angeles Times: A1.
125“Polaroid Cuts Off Goods to S. Africa.”
126Robert K. Massie, Loosing the Bonds: The United States and Africa in the Apartheid Years (New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 1997): 405; Paula Stern, “Ethnic Groups: Shaping the Course of American Foreign Policy,” 10 January 1976, Washington Post: A15.
127Harold J. Logan, “A Black Political Group Set Up as Africa Lobby,” 21 May 1978, Washington Post: A18; “New Lobby of Blacks Will Seek to Influence U.S. Policy in Africa,” 22 April 1978, Washington Post: A9; Tillery, “Foreign Policy Activism and Power in the House of Representatives: Black Members of Congress and South Africa”: 100.
128David L. Hostetter, Movement Matters: American Antiapartheid Activism and the Rise of Multicultural Politics (New York: Routledge, 2006): 78–79. On a 1977 trip to South Africa, Young was quoted as saying, “I’m not advocating [a boycott] because to do so would be to interfere in your internal affairs. I’m a sophisticated diplomat and I wouldn’t want to do that.” Massie, Loosing the Bonds: 413. Young’s short tenure as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations ended with his resignation in 1979.
129Massie, Loosing the Bonds: 558–560.
130Eleanor Holmes Norton, then a Georgetown law professor, and Fauntroy’s eventual successor as DC Delegate, accompanied Fauntroy, Berry, and Robinson to the South African Embassy, but left before the group’s arrest to notify the press of the protest. Dorothy Gilliam, “DC Sit-In Led the Way,” 9 September 1985,” Washington Post: A1; “Capital’s House Delegate Held in Embassy Sit-In,” 22 November 1984, New York Times: B10.
131Massie, Loosing the Bonds: 558–560; Kenneth Bredemeier and Michael Marriott, “Fauntroy Arrested in Embassy,” 22 November 1984, Washington Post: 1; Courtland Milloy, “Blacks Form ‘Free S. Africa Movement,’” 24 November 1984, Washington Post: C1; “Capital’s House Delegate Held in Embassy Sit-In.”
132Dellums and Halterman, Lying Down With the Lions: 128.
133Quoted in Tillery, “Foreign Policy Activism and Power in the House of Representatives: Black Members of Congress and South Africa”: 100.
134Karlyn Barker and Michael Marriott, “Protest Spreads to Other U.S. Cities,” 4 December 1984, Washington Post: A1; “New Tactics on South Africa,” 10 May 1986, New York Times: 8.
135According to the Congressional Record more than 100 bills and resolutions were introduced during this period. In some cases, Members introduced similar legislation on several occasions, thereby increasing this number. For example, Charles Diggs introduced a Joint Resolution entitled “A Joint Resolution to Protect United States Domestic and Foreign Policy interests by Making Fair Employment Practices in the South African Enterprises of United States Firms a Criteria for Eligibility for Government Contracts” seven times during the 93rd and 94th Congresses. In his article “Foreign Policy Activism and Power in the House of Representatives: Black Members of Congress and South Africa, 1968–1986,” political scientist Alvin Tillery writes that African-American Representatives introduced 12 bills on South Africa in the 91st Congress and 26 bills in the 92nd Congress. According to the Congressional Record, three bills on South Africa were introduced in the House during the 91st Congress, followed by eight in the House during the 92nd Congress. In addition, two bills were introduced in the Senate during the two Congresses. Of the 11 bills on South Africa in the House, five were sponsored by black Members. Many of the measures consisted of resolutions condemning the regime or requests urging the U.S. government to change its policy toward South Africa. Whereas the majority of legislation sponsored by CBC members never made it to the floor for a vote, a few resolutions passed the House. In the 95th Congress (1977–1979), for example, a concurrent resolution introduced by Cardiss Collins of Illinois “expressing concern about the recent acts of repression by the Government of the Republic of South Africa” passed the House. George Crockett of Michigan successfully sponsored the “Mandela Freedom Resolution” in 1984, calling for the release of the imprisoned South African leader; an identical resolution passed the Senate. Despite a low rate of success, the steady flow of legislation on South Africa that was put forth by African-American Representatives kept the issue of apartheid in the congressional spotlight. With a new sense of vigor spurred by the embassy demonstrations and increased violence in South Africa, black Members of Congress intensified their legislative effort to fight apartheid. According to Representative Clay, the CBC sponsored 24 bills concerning U.S. policy toward South Africa between 1985 and 1986. See Clay, Just Permanent Interests: Black Americans in Congress, 1870–1991: 281; Omang, “Rep. Crockett and the Volley From the Right.”
136Juan Williams, “Antiapartheid Actions Await Turn of Events; Rep. Gray Says U.S. Moves Depend Upon South Africa,” 28 September 1985, Washington Post: A7.
137Jonathan Fuerbringer, “House Votes Sanctions Against South Africa,” 6 June 1985, New York Times: A1.
138Bob Secter, “S. Africa Sanctions Passed by the Senate,” 12 July 1985, Los Angeles Times: A1.
139George da Lama and Dorothy Collin, “Reagan Slaps S. Africa’s Wrist,” 10 September 1985, Chicago Tribune: 1.
140James R. Dickenson, “Dellums: Exoneration Is His,” 20 June 1986, Washington Post: A17; Edward Walsh, “House Would Require U.S. Disinvestment From South Africa,” 19 June 1986, Washington Post: A1. Dellums provides a detailed account of the floor action concerning the anti-apartheid legislation in his memoirs, Lying Down With the Lions: 132–138.
141Typical protocol dictated that a conference report would be drafted as a compromise between the House and Senate bills. However, leaders from both chambers decided to adopt the Senate bill to avoid the possibility of a pocket veto by President Reagan. See Massie, Loosing the Bonds: 617–618; Dellums and Halterman, Lying Down With the Lions: 136–138.
142The Senate voted 78 to 21 and the House voted 313 to 83 to override the presidential veto. “Senate Overrides Reagan’s Veto Sanctions 78 to 21,” 2 October 1986, Los Angeles Times: A1; Edward Walsh, “House Easily Overrides Veto of South African Sanctions,” 30 September 1986, Washington Post: A1.
143“Hill Overrides Veto of South Africa Sanctions,” CQ Almanac, 1986, 42nd ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1987): 359, http://www.library.cqpress.com.
144Desson Howe, “Cheers for Sanctions Vote,” 4 October 1986, Washington Post: G1.
145Allister Sparks, “6 Congressmen Begin Tour of S. Africa,” 8 January 1986, Washington Post: A1.
146E. A. Wayne, “Congress Considers Boosting Sanctions Against South Africa,” 5 November 1987, Christian Science Monitor: 3; Dellums wrote about his continued attempts to pass stricter sanctions against South Africa in his memoirs. See Dellums, Lying Down With the Lions: 138–148.
147Dellums, Lying Down With the Lions: 143. President Bush eventually lifted the majority of U.S. sanctions due to what he perceived as a “profound transformation” in the attempt to promote racial equality in South Africa. See Ann Devroy and Helen Dewar, “Citing S. Africa’s ‘Transformation,’ Bush Ends Most Sanctions,” 11 July 1991, Washington Post: A23.