During the mid- to late-1960s, the main slogans of the African American social justice movements were “freedom now” and “Black Power.”  It was recognized that both political power and economic power were required to attain greater freedom and empowerment in the United States.

As civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael put it in the 1966 pamphlet Power & Racism: What We Want, “We should begin with the basic fact that black Americans have two problems: they are poor and they are black… Any program to end racism must address itself to that reality….”

Sadly, in the past half century there has been limited progress in the political sphere and even less improvement in the economic space.

The current 117th Congress has 57 Black members, which is consistent with the African American demographic representation. But African Americans remain deeply under-represented in political power when looking at the Senate and in governorships.

Currently only 3 percent of all U.S. senators are African American, though Blacks are 13 percent of the American population. There are currently no Black governors, which shows a lack of political strength at the statewide level.

In terms of economics there has been some progress, with a decline of poverty in the African American community over the last 60 years.  Yet, Black/white disparities in income, unemployment, and most particularly wealth have remained strong.  According to 2019 data, African Americans have only 6 percent of the wealth of white Americans, leaving African Americans in deep asset poverty and overall financially vulnerable.

The 1960s racial justice leaders understood that political and economic power are interconnected.

“With power, the masses could make or participate in making the decisions which govern their destinies, and thus create basic change in their day-to-day lives,” Stokely Carmichael wrote.

Read the full article about Black electoral and economic power by Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and Connor Sanchez at Inequality.org.