Twelve men and one woman made up the first Congressional Black Caucus in 1971. Back then, it was a small club, and yet the message that it sent to the rest of the country was huge: These 13 legislators, standing on the steps of the Capitol or in ornate hearing rooms, had claimed their rightful place in Washington, D.C.
Congress would never look the same.
Since its founding, the CBC has more than tripled in size to 43 members. It has become one of the most powerful forces in Democratic politics in the House and has seen one of its own elected president. When Democrats took the majority in 2006, CBC members held five committee chairmanships and the position of Majority Whip, the third-most-powerful position in the House.
In its four decades, the CBC has grown from a small organization to a sprawling institution with a foundation and a political action committee. Success has come with baggage, though, and many members of the modern CBC have faced ethics scandals that have shaken the organization and highlighted racial fault lines in Congress.
Only two of the original 13 members are still serving, Reps. John Conyers and Charlie Rangel. Some have died, but their names still loom large: Shirley Chisholm, Charlie Diggs, Parren Mitchell. See more on the story of the CBC in Roll Call's multimedia package.
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