The Congressional Black Caucus is an organization representing the black members of the United States Congress. Membership is exclusive to African-Americans, and its chair in the 113th Congress is Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio. The Congressional Black Caucus describes its goals as “positively influencing the course of events pertinent to African-Americans and others of similar experience and situation”, and “achieving greater equity for persons of African descent in the design and content of domestic and international programs and services.” The Congressional Black Caucus encapsulates these goals in the following priorities: closing the achievement and opportunity gaps in education, assuring quality health care for every American, focusing on employment and economic security, ensuring justice for all, retirement security for all Americans, increasing welfare funds, and increasing equity in foreign policy.
As of 2014, there have been only seven black senators since the caucus’s founding. Edward Brooke, a Republican senator from Massachusetts in the 60s and 70s, was not a member of the CBC. In 2013, Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, also chose not to join the CBC after being appointed to fill the senate seat of Jim DeMint. The remaining five black senators, all Democrats, have served as members of the Congressional Black Caucus. They are Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, elected in 2013 and currently serving; Carol Moseley Braun (1993–1999) of Illinois, then-Senator Barack Obama (2005–2008) of Illinois, Mo Cowan (2013) of Massachusetts, and Roland Burris (2008–2010). Burris was appointed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in December 2008 to fill Obama’s seat for the remaining two years of his senate term. Cowan was appointed to temporarily serve until a special election after the seat was vacated by John Kerry following his appointment as Secretary of State.
The caucus is officially non-partisan; but, in practice, the vast majority of African Americans elected to Congress have been members of the Democratic Party. Prior to 2011, no Republican had maintained membership in the Congressional Black Caucus. Only six black Republicans have been elected to Congress since the caucus was founded: Senator Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts, Representative Gary Franks of Connecticut, Delegate Melvin H. Evans of the Virgin Islands, Representative J. C. Watts of Oklahoma, Representative Allen West of Florida, and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.
In 2011, Allen West joined the caucus and became the first ongoing Republican member in the group’s history, while fellow Black Republican Tim Scott declined.