On Thursday, the day of the official swearing-in of the 116th Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus swore in its own group of members, a total of 55 ― its largest number in history.
This year’s CBC surpasses its previous record of 49 House and Senate members in the 115th Congress.
“With the largest caucus in history... the CBC is poised to play a leading role in standing up to the Trump Administration and pressing forward on key issues like protecting voting rights and the Affordable Care Act,” executive director Kevin Harris said by email.
There are several history makers among the incoming class of CBC members: Ayanna Pressley, the first black congresswoman of Massachusetts, and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who is one of the first Muslim women in Congress ― along with Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) ― as well as the first Somali-American in the body.
Pressley plans to work out of Shirley Chisholm’s former office in Congress. Chisholm, a Democratic representative from New York, was the first black congresswoman in U.S. history.
“Chisholm has been a shero of mine since I was a girl,” Pressley previously said of occupying the historic office. “Her commitment to fighting injustice and lifting up the voices of the disenfranchised is an inspiration and an example I hope to follow.”
Omar wore her hijab for the swearing-in on the House floor Thursday ― a first for Congress. Headwear was not previously allowed, but is now under new Democratic House rules.
Established in 1971, the Congressional Black Caucus states as its mission “to ensure African Americans... have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.” Its legislative priorities include reforming the criminal justice system and combating voter suppression.