In a historic moment, House Democrats made a significant decision on November 30th by electing New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries as their leader, replacing the departing House Speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi. This election marks an important milestone as Jeffries becomes the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress.
CBS News reported that Jeffries, aged 52, secured the party’s leadership post with a unanimous vote. When Congress convenes on January 3rd, the Brooklyn lawmaker will assume the role of minority leader in the House, which the Republicans gained control of after a narrow majority win in the 2022 midterm elections.
Jeffries expressed his enthusiasm and readiness to start working in his new position through a tweet.
Rev. Al Sharpton, the founder and president of the National Action Network (NAN), welcomed this development, recognizing it as a crucial step towards achieving equal representation in Congress. He pointed out that it took over 150 years since Joseph Rainey became the first Black American to serve in the House to see this milestone finally realized. Sharpton also acknowledged the legacy of Shirley Chisholm, a mentor to him, who became the first Black woman elected to the House over 50 years ago. Chisholm fought to ensure that Black voices were not just present but listened to when they spoke.
Pelosi, who made history in 2003 by becoming the first woman to serve as House Speaker, has now stepped down, paving the way for a younger generation of Democratic leadership. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn have also announced their decision to step down from their current leadership positions.
Replacing them are Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, elected as Democratic whip, and Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, selected as caucus chairman.
Hakeem Jeffries, a corporate lawyer and former New York State Assemblyman, won his congressional seat in 2012, succeeding long-time Brooklyn Democratic Rep. Edolphus Towns. Over the years, he has risen through the ranks of party leadership and became the chairman of the Democratic caucus in 2019.
Jeffries’ background is rooted in the NYC public school system, and he once quoted the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G., who hailed from his district, on the Senate floor during the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. In a recent news conference, Jeffries shared that he grew up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, with two working-class parents, and he faced challenges during the crack cocaine era. Nevertheless, he emphasized the support and love he received from his community.
Following his election, Jeffries received numerous congratulatory messages to celebrate this historic achievement.