The Election of African-Americans to the US House Since 1963

Six states have elected black candidates in more than 10 percent of its U.S. House elections conducted since MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech; 24 states haven’t elected any

ushouseseal10.pngAs the nation commemorates the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, the long shadow of high profile incidents last year in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City have kept discussions of race relations and racial equality on the front burner in America.

On the political front, blacks are still shy of at least numeric equality in a variety of high profile public offices.

For example, the retirement of Governor Deval Patrick in Massachusetts this last cycle means no African-Americans currently hold gubernatorial posts.

In Congress, blacks are also significantly underrepresented in the U.S. Senate – claiming just two seats as incumbents Tim Scott of South Carolina and Cory Booker of New Jersey held their seats last November.

In the U.S. House, where redistricting in many states has carved out several safe African-American seats over the last few decades, black U.S. Representatives won 44 seats in the 2014 cycle, or 10.1 percent.

That is still below the percentage of African-Americans nationwide – 13.2 percent according to 2013 U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

It has now been more than 51 years since Dr. King delivered his civil rights speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963.

Over these five-plus decades, which states have elected African-Americans to the U.S. House at the highest rate?

A Smart Politics analysis of the more than 11,500 general and special U.S. House elections conducted since Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” finds that Maryland has elected the highest percentage of blacks to the chamber at 17.4 percent with five other states doing so at more than a 10 percent clip: Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi, Illinois, and Michigan.

Dating back to the first black who won election to the U.S. House (Republican Joseph Rainey of South Carolina in 1870) a total of 132 African-Americans have been elected to the chamber across 26 states. (Note: This analysis only examines U.S. Representatives, not delegates).

The 24 states that have never elected an African-American to the nation’s lower legislative chamber (some with low black populations) include:

● Five states in the Midwest: Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota
● Six in the Northeast: Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont
● Three in the South: Arkansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia
● Ten states in the West: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

Utah removed its name from this list when Mia Love won an open seat race in the state’s 4th Congressional District last November.

The vast majority of African-Americans were elected to the chamber in the 51 years since Dr. King’s famous speech in Washington, D.C. – 110 in all.

Overall, black candidates have won 716 of the 11,534 general and special U.S. House elections conducted since August 1963, or 6.2 percent.

Maryland leads the way with blacks winning 17.4 percent of such contests.

African-Americans have won 37 of 213 elections in the Old Line State – contests won by Parren Mitchell (eight elections), Kweisi Mfume (five), Albert Wynn (eight), Elijah Cummings (11), and Donna Edwards (five).

Next is Georgia at #2 with 16.7 percent, Missouri at #3 with 14.7 percent, and Mississippi and Illinois tied at #4 with African-Americans winning 12.5 percent in these two states.

Illinois has also elected the largest number of different black U.S. Representatives during this span with 13 – more than California (12), New York (10), and Texas (eight).

Rounding out the Top 10 are Michigan at #6 (11.5 percent), New York at #7 (8.7 percent), North Carolina at #8 (8.7 percent), South Carolina at #9 (8.6 percent), and California at #10 (7.3 percent).

Percentage of African-Americans Elected to U.S. House by State Since 1963

Rank
State
Black US Reps
# Won
# Elections
% Won
1
Maryland
5
37
213
17.4
2
Georgia
7
49
293
16.7
3
Missouri
4
36
245
14.7
4
Mississippi
2
16
128
12.5
4
Illinois
13
71
570
12.5
6
Michigan
7
52
451
11.5
7
New York
10
85
901
9.4
8
North Carolina
5
27
310
8.7
9
South Carolina
2
14
163
8.6
10
California
12
91
1254
7.3
11
Florida
6
37
517
7.2
12
Tennessee
2
16
234
6.8
12
Louisiana
3
14
206
6.8
14
Alabama
3
12
189
6.3
15
Texas
8
44
742
5.9
16
Ohio
4
27
542
5.0
17
Indiana
3
13
266
4.9
18
Pennsylvania
4
27
598
4.5
19
New Jersey
3
16
367
4.4
20
Virginia
1
12
278
4.3
21
Oklahoma
1
4
151
2.6
21
Wisconsin
1
6
235
2.6
23
Minnesota
1
5
209
2.4
24
Connecticut
1
3
152
2.0
25
Nevada
1
1
53
1.9
26
Utah
1
1
71
1.4
27
Alaska
0
0
27
0.0
27
Arizona
0
0
147
0.0
27
Arkansas
0
0
106
0.0
27
Colorado
0
0
151
0.0
27
Delaware
0
0
26
0.0
27
Hawaii
0
0
57
0.0
27
Idaho
0
0
52
0.0
27
Iowa
0
0
146
0.0
27
Kansas
0
0
118
0.0
27
Kentucky
0
0
106
0.0
27
Maine
0
0
52
0.0
27
Massachusetts
0
0
287
0.0
27
Montana
0
0
41
0.0
27
Nebraska
0
0
78
0.0
27
New Hampshire
0
0
52
0.0
27
New Mexico
0
0
71
0.0
27
North Dakota
0
0
31
0.0
27
Oregon
0
0
124
0.0
27
Rhode Island
0
0
53
0.0
27
South Dakota
0
0
36
0.0
27
Vermont
0
0
36
0.0
27
Washington
0
0
215
0.0
27
West Virginia
0
0
97
0.0
27
Wyoming
0
0
27
0.0
Total
110
716
11,534
6.2

Note: Includes general and special elections conducted between September 1963 and December 2014. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

The partisan gap among those blacks who have won election to the chamber is huge.

Of the 110 blacks elected to the chamber since the fall of 1963, 104 have been Democrats and just six were Republicans.

Two of these six GOPers were elected for the first time last cycle: Connecticut’s Gary Franks (1990, 1992, 1994), Oklahoma’s J.C. Watts (1994, 1996, 1998, 2000), Florida’s Allen West (2010), South Carolina’s Tim Scott (2010, 2012), Texas’ Will Hurd (2014), and Utah’s Mia Love (2014).

(Note: Scott was not seated after his 2012 win but was instead appointed to the U.S. Senate).

Overall, Democrats have won 703 of the 716 U.S. House elections won by blacks across the last 51+ years, or 98.2 percent of such contests.

The percentage of blacks elected to the chamber has been steadily on the rise since the turn of the 20th Century.

After the election of blacks in 38 U.S. House contests from 1870 until the end of the 19th Century, none served in the chamber until 1929 when Illinois Republican Oscar De Priest won the state’s 1st Congressional District.

Since then, the percentage of seats won by African-Americans has increased during each subsequent redistricting period:

● 1922-1930: 0.1 percent (winning two elections)
● 1932-1940: 0.2 percent (five)
● 1942-1950: 0.4 percent (nine)
● 1952-1960: 0.8 percent (17)
● 1962-1970: 1.8 percent (39)
● 1972-1980: 3.7 percent (81)
● 1982-1990: 5.2 percent (114)
● 1992-2000: 8.9 percent (194)
● 2002-2010: 9.4 percent (204)
● 2012-2014: 10.0 percent (87)

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