TEXAS LEGISLATIVE BLACK CAUCUS
TEXAS LEGISLATIVE BLACK CAUCUS. The Texas Legislative Black Caucus (TLBC) was organized in 1973 by eight African Americans who were elected to the Texas House of Representatives in November of 1972. These eight new state representatives were the largest number of African Americans elected to serve in the Texas legislature since Reconstruction. The founding members of the TLBC were Paul Ragsdale, Sam Hudson III, and Eddie Bernice Johnson from Dallas; Craig Washington, Anthony Hall, Senfronia Thompson, and Mickey Leland from Houston; and G. J. Sutton from San Antonio. These individuals formed the Black Caucus to work cooperatively with the Democratic Party in the interest of the African-American community in Texas. They also sought to work with other legislative caucuses, such as the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, to provide a bloc of votes that would support legislation to improve the quality of life for African Americans in areas such as education, housing, health care, and employment.
From its small beginnings the Texas Legislative Black Caucus has grown in number and influence. In 2013 it had a membership of eighteen legislators who represented Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Frisco, and Beaumont. Three years after its founding, the Black Caucus started holding annual conventions to connect with its constituents throughout the state of Texas. In 1993 the Black Caucus upgraded its annual conventions and began hosting the Texas Legislative Black Caucus Weekend, similar to the Congressional Black Caucus Weekend held annually by the African-American members of the United States Congress. This event has evolved into the bi-annual, African-American Legislative Summit hosted by the members of the Black Caucus. At these bi-annual summits, the Black Caucus hosts a banquet to award academic scholarships to students from high schools across the state through its foundation and to recognize individuals from throughout the state for their contributions to their communities. The summits also consist of workshops focusing on issues related to improving African-American life in Texas. In addition to spearheading the creation of a Department of African American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, the Black Caucus has helped to create an Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin “to work closely with the Texas Legislature to address and study issues affecting the African-American community and the rapidly growing urban population in the state.”
Research on the effectiveness of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus has shown that since its organization in 1973, it has been very effective in representing its constituents on critical and social issues such as education, housing, and employment. Although as of 2013 it has been a minority within a minority party in the Texas legislature, its members’ voting cohesion on “race relevant issues” has helped to pass legislation beneficial to the state’s African-American and underserved populations.
J. Mason Brewer, Negro Legislators of Texas and Their Descendants (Dallas: Mathis, 1935; 2d ed., Austin: Jenkins, 1970). Bruce A. Glasrud and Merline Pitre, eds., Black Women in Texas History (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008). Nancy Baker Jones and Ruthe Winegarten, Capitol Women: Texas Female Legislators, 1923–1999 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000). Charles E. Menifield and Stephen D. Shaffer, eds., Politics in the New South: Representation of African Americans in Southern State Legislatures (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005). Merline Pitre, Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: Black Leadership in Texas, 1870–1890, 2nd rev. ed. (Austin: Eakin Press, 1997). Texas Legislative Black Caucus (http://texaslegislativeblackcaucus.com/), accessed July 31, 2013. David A. Williams, ed., Bricks Without Straw: A Comprehensive History of African Americans in Texas (Austin: Eakin Press, 1997).