Monday, December 01, 2008

How many Black Members of Congress? Update

[Updated Dec. 21 2012 - How Many Black Members In 113th Congress?]

[Update Jan. 24, 2009 Thai Time: Roland Burris was appointed Illinois' junior Senator on January 15, 2009 to replace Barrack Obama. The appointment of Burris, an African-American, means that there is still one Black member of the US Senate. (I see that I missed this because it occurred while I was at the Petchabun meeting and out of internet contact for several days.) Today's announcement that Hillary Clinton has been replaced by Kirsten Gillibrand means the number of women in the US Senate stays the same as well.
[Update Dec. 16, 2008: I got through to the Congressional Black Caucus office today to confirm that Donna Christian Christensen, delegate from the Virgin Islands, will return in the 111th Congress and that no new Black representatives were elected from districts that didn't previously have Black representatives. That means that after this election the number of Black members of the US House of Representatives is down by one (William Jefferson lost his election) and the US Senate lost its only Black Senator when Barack Obama was elected President. By my count that means there are 39 African-American members of the US House of Representatives, plus two more African-Americans who are non-voting delegates (from Washington DC and the Virgin Islands).]

[Update Dec. 7, 2008: Black Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson was defeated yesterday in his bid for reelection by Republican Anh "Joseph" Cao. That means one less black congress member, but it also means the first Vietnamese-American congress member.]

Short, not completely confirmed answer, is 40 39 [see update on Rep. Jefferson above.] But there are a number of qualifications. Read on for the details.

In February I posted about the difficulty in getting a simple number count of African-American Congress members. I went through several lists and put together a table where I calculated there were 40 voting House members and one US Senator. That Senator resigned recently so he could concentrate on being president-elect and his replacement is still to be appointed.

After the November election, I thought it was time to attempt to update the table. It wasn't easy. The Congressional Black Caucus site, the one I would expect to have the information, still has the 110th Congress listed. That's fine, but it would be nice if they had something about who were reelected or whether there were new members. Maybe that's too political and they wouldn't want to have to mention if someone lost an election.

In any case, I could find that all but two members have been reelected. In a couple of cases the member had died and been replaced by an African-American since I last posted. Stephanie Tubbs Jones was not replaced until after the November 4 election, by a later special election. Her successor - Martha Fudge, also an African-American - was elected to fill in the rest of the term on November 18 as well as starting the full term in January. The exceptions were Donna Christian-Christensen, the non-voting member from the Virgin Islands. I simply couldn't find any information online on that election. The second is Louisiana Congressman Willian Jefferson. Although he's under indictment, that isn't the reason he wasn't reelected. Hurricane Gustav caused the cancellation of the primary in his district. The primary was postponed until the regular election day. Jefferson won the Democratic primary and the final election will be Dec. 6, 2008.

I had to check each candidate's election separately. I used my list of Congress members and relied on Sourcewatch to see if they had been reelected. Sourcewatch had a nice state-by-state breakdown with pictures of all the candidates. I did not, however, go through all states to see if there were any black faces that were new. It was tedious enough as it was and that seemed a dubious task.

They are listed in order of seniority which was how the original encarta list had them.

[Run your cursor over the top tool bar for controls to print, email, magnify the chart, etc.]
Black Members of 111th Congress

While searching I found this August 2008 report on from the Congressional Research Service on African-American Congress members. It has more information about each member beginning in 1870.

While double checking that last link, I found another CRS report on the members of Congress dated May 2008 which says of the 110th Congress:
A record number of 90 women serve in the 110th Congress: 74 in the House, 16 in the Senate. There are 42 black or African American Members in the House, including two Delegates, and one black Senator, the same as the record number in the 109th Congress. There are 30 Hispanic or Latino Members serving: 26 in the House, including the Resident Commissioner, and three in the Senate. Eight Members (five Representatives, one Delegate, and two Senators) are Asian or Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander. There is one American Indian (Native American), who serves in the House. This report will be revised at the commencement of the 111th Congress.

[Update: January 30, 2009 Thai Time: Ragini at Just Jackfruit has put together the information I was originally looking for when I found myself having to create this table to figure things out. H[Sh]e gives the percentage of Blacks, Hispanics, Asian Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaskan Natives, as well as women in the US and in Congress.]


  1. Well, in the UK, the House of Commons has 659 members with 12 (1.8 percent) being BME (Black Minority Ethnic) where 'black' takes in quite a bit more than in the US. Looks like the USA is about 15 percent for its House of Representatives. UK has about 7.5 percent BME population, one of the highest percentages in Europe (due to its empire coming home, as it's put here). The House of Lords is another matter entirely.

  2. Hi, I just wanted to mention that I used some of the information in your post to compare the population of the US by racial percentages to the membership of the 111th Congress by racial percentages here. Thanks!


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