A Word Or Two From The Congressional Black Caucus – 1971 – Past Daily Reference Room
Congressional Black Caucus – a little background via the House of Representatives Webpage:
With the opening of the 92nd Congress (1971–1973), the number of black Representatives rose to 13—the greatest number of African Americans ever to serve simultaneously in Congress. The DSC met on February 2, 1971, and accepted a recommendation put forth by Clay to create a nonpartisan, formal network for African-American Members. Charles Rangel of New York, who narrowly defeated longtime Representative Powell in 1970, thought of a new name for the group: the Congressional Black Caucus. The CBC elected Diggs as its first chairman. “Black people have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies…just permanent interests,” Clay declared—a theme that set the tone for the CBC during its formative years and evolved into its motto. Unlike many Members of Congress, Clay surmised, the participants in the new caucus did not owe their elections to traditional liberal or labor bases of support. “We were truly uninhibited, really free to decide our own issues, formulate our own policies, and advance our own programs,” Clay recalled. “Our mission was clear. We had to parlay massive voting potential into concrete economic results.”
In the midst of its transition to a more formal organization, the CBC waged its first public battle during the early months of 1971. Upset with President Richard M. Nixon’s refusal to meet with the group, African-American Members made national headlines when they boycotted the January 1971 State of the Union address. “We now refuse to be part of your audience,” Clay wrote on behalf of the caucus, explaining that it perceived the President’s persistent refusal to grant them a White House meeting as symptomatic of the administration’s abandonment of African-American interests. The group won a public relations victory when Nixon agreed to a March 1971 meeting. “Our people are no longer asking for equality as a rhetorical promise,” Diggs declared. “They are demanding from the national Administration, and from elected officials without regard to party affiliation, the only kind of equality that ultimately has any real meaning—equality of results.” Press coverage provided instant national recognition for the CBC. The CBC thereafter skillfully used such tactics to wield clout and build a reputation as a congressional irritant.
A rapid transformation took place in the organization’s early years as it began a maturation process. Heavy expectations were placed upon the group, initially leading the CBC to adopt a collective approach to representation to present a unified voice for black America. The CBC collected and disseminated information on African-American preferences regarding policy, assisted individual black Americans with a range of requests by providing casework services, and spoke on behalf of special interest groups within the black community.
In June of 1971, the NBC program Comment with Edwin Newman ran essays by four of the CBC members; William Clay, Charles Diggs, Shirley Chisholm and Ronald Dellums, addressing the then-current issues confronting the Congressional Black Caucus. Here is that program.