Higher Heights Leadership Fund and the Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP) released the “By the Numbers: Black Women in the 117th Congress” snapshot and analysis of the historic number of Black women who have been elected to serve in the United States 117th Congress (January 3, 2021-January 3, 2023).
The 26 Black women officeholders who will serve at the start of the 117th Congress include Senator Kamala Harris (CA), who will ascend to the vice presidency on January 20th, and three non-incumbent members. Cori Bush (MO-01) is the first Black woman and first woman of color in Congress from Missouri, Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) is the first Black woman in Congress from Washington, and Nikema Williams (GA-05) replaces civil rights icon John Lewis in the U.S. House. In addition, two Black women will serve as non-voting delegates in the U.S. House. The previous high for Black women voting members of Congress was 23, the number who served in the 116th Congress (2019-2021). These numbers are likely to change in coming months. As of January 3, 2021, at least one Black congresswoman – Marcia Fudge (D-OH) – has been tapped by the new administration to serve in the Cabinet.
The analysis shows that even with the record-breaking number of Black women in the new U.S. Congress, Black women continue to be underrepresented overall, and especially as U.S. Senate candidates and officeholders. Findings include:
- Despite an increase in Republican Black women candidates and nominees, Black women’s representation in Congress remains entirely Democratic. Each of the 26 Black women who will be serving as voting members in the 117th Congress are Democrats, making up 9.7% of all Democrats in Congress.
- As of January 3, 2021, these 26 Black women will constitute only 4.9% of all members in Congress, despite being 7.6% of the U.S. population. The 25 Black women representatives in the U.S. House will be 5.7% of all U.S. Representatives.
- With Kamala Harris’ departure from Congress, Black women will have no remaining representation in the Senate. The 25 remaining Black women electeds will all be serving the House of Representatives.
- Since 1968, the year marking Shirley Chisholm’s election as the first Black woman to the U.S. Congress, 47 Black women have served in Congress, including two Black women who have served in the U.S. Senate and 45 Black women (44 Democrats, 1 Republican) who have served in the U.S. House of Representatives.