Tracking Trends in Black Elected Power
The American political system was crafted to preserve white men’s political power, and continues to exclude women and people of color. Structural barriers to reflective leadership could easily demoralize movements for racial justice and gender parity. Yet throughout the country, women and people of color are winning elections at historic levels, and Black women specifically have been gaining federal, state, and local positions at double-digit rates of increase.
This year, we celebrate Black History Month by tracking the status of Black elected leadership from the launch of the Trump presidency to its final year. We also share a 2021 snapshot of Black leadership in Congress & statewide office.
How did Black candidates fare from mid-2016 to mid-2020, as white nationalism exploded, and Black Americans and their allies took to the streets? We ran the numbers to measure what happened to Black political power during this turbulent time.
Black Elected Leadership in the United States, 2016-2020
Percentage of Elected Officials by Office Level
Black Women Drive Progress
From 2016 to 2020, Black women increased in all offices at a rate of 33%, from 2.3% to 3.1%.
Rate of Change 2016-2020, All Office Levels
- From 2016 to 2020, Black women increased in the US House of Representatives at a rate of 12% from 3.4% to 4.1%.
- Black women increased in State Legislatures at a rate of 28%, from 3.3% to 4.3%.
- Black women increased in elected city positions at a rate of 23%, from 7.9% to 9.8%.
- Black men hold roughly 50% more elected positions than Black women (4.5% vs. 3.1%).
In the Media
‘I think in political circles and for powerbrokers — the world of political gatekeepers who decide who’s going to run and who’s going to get the resources for their campaigns — there still is a lot of old, inaccurate conventional wisdom about what a successful or a viable candidate looks like, and that candidate usually does not look like a Black woman,’ Carter said. ‘The good news is that the more women, people of color and in this case, Black women, who are elected, and the more they run and win, the more that becomes a discredited notion.’“What Tishaura Jones’ mayoral win says about the political power of Black women.” The 19th