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Rep. Hakeem Jeffries Becomes First Black Figure to Lead Party in Congress

History has been made.

The House Democrats on Wednesday elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) to lead the party in the next Congress. This marks the first Black figure to lead either party in Congress in the nation’s history. And it’s the first time in 20 years with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) in leadership there will be a generational shift.

To many, the shift was no surprise, especially since Pelosi and her top deputies announced earlier in the month that they would, in fact, step out of the top three leadership spots next year, according to Once the announcement was made, Jeffries was one of three next-generation leaders that quickly solidified a place as an uncontested contender.

The other two are Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.).

While none of the new leaders faced an opponent, there was still a celebratory tone.

Still, Jeffries said he hasn’t had much time to hearken back on the historic achievement of his leadership role, as he is “focused on the Democrats transition to the minority and the solemn responsibility.”

“The best thing that we can do as a result of the seriousness and solemnity of the moment, is lean in and do the best damn job that we can for the people.”

But other Democrats aren’t being so modest, especially those in the Congressional Black Caucus in which Jeffries’ rise is cheered as a milestone in the fight for civil rights.

“As an African American, it sends a message out to this country that it’s time for real diversity and inclusion. And there are so many people of color who are capable and competent and can lead,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a 32-year congressional veteran and highly influential member of the Black Caucus, said to “This will be a great image for people of color and for Black people and little Black boys to be able to aspire to a position as high as that.”

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