The Continuing Significance of Studying the Congressional Black Caucus
By Artemesia Stanberry, North Carolina Central University
What Were Your Initial Motivations to Study African American Lawmakers?
My motivation for studying Black lawmakers was actually the suggestion of my dissertation advisor, Dr. Lorenzo Morris. I initially wanted to focus my dissertation on the state of school desegregation on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. I thought my research would be very relevant. Dr. Morris told me that because I was working as a congressional staffer, I should consider doing something on the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). It had not occurred to me to write about the CBC. I ultimately focused my dissertation on the response of the CBC to the War on Drugs, specifically mandatory minimum laws for crack and powder cocaine. My career in Congress spanned from 1996 to 2004; I took leave in 2003 to complete my dissertation but returned in 2004 before taking my first tenure-track position at Prairie View A&M University later that year. Focusing on the CBC was a good decision because it allowed me to explore more deeply the complexities of Blacks in Congress. It had been relatively recently (i.e., at the time of my doctoral studies) that the CBC increased its numbers as a result of the creation of majority-minority districts following the 1990 US Census. After the 1992 congressional elections, the 103rd Congress (1993–1994) had the most new Black members in history (Committee on House Administration 2008, 8). The number of African Americans in Congress reached 50 by the 115th Congress and 57 in the 116th, the highest number in history (Brudnick and Manning).