Race and Ethnicity in Black Congressional Representation: The Case of US Foreign Policy Towards Africa

Menna Weiwot A. Demessie, Errol A. Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intra-racial diversity among black Americans provides unique opportunities for students of congressional representation. Studies of representation often conflate slavery descendant African Americans who identify mainly based on race, and African immigrants who identify based on ethnicity as well as race, so it’s important to determine to what extent legislators substantively represent both. Drawing on conceptions of racial consciousness, linked fate, and the diversity infrastructure thesis, we focus on the legislative activity of individual legislators, race-based caucuses (e.g. the Congressional Black Caucus) and ethnic/nationality-based ones (e.g. the Ethiopian Caucus) to determine their substantive representation of black Americans regarding US-Africa foreign policy issues. Statistical analysis of the 110th–111th Congresses reveals that African and Asian American legislators manifest greater substantive representation, suggesting that descriptive representation is sufficient but not necessary for substantive representation. Also, being a member from a state with a large African immigrant population is positively associated with substantive representation. In addition, the presence of African American legislators on African ethnic-based caucuses has the greatest impact on its substantive representation, indicating that African American racial consciousness has the greatest impact on the substantive representation of African immigrants at the caucus level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalCongress and the Presidency
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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