This Black History Month, Remember We Only Counted as Three-Fifths of a Person
By Beverly Colson Neal
The month of February is recognized as Black History Month and while the Black community has come a long way, we must not forget our past if we are to harness our full potential and turn it into power for good.
African Americans weren’t freed until after the Civil War when the 13th amendment was enacted that freed all slaves. We didn’t have full citizenship until the 14th amendment was enacted to guarantee it. With these amendments, we didn’t have the right to vote until the 15th amendment was passed. There was a time when our community didn’t have a voice, especially before the passing of the13th amendment, where slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for representation in Congress. The 2020 Census is our one opportunity to ensure that every single Black person is counted.
According to the 2017 Census, Blacks make up 16.8% of the total population in Florida. That means Blacks are almost 1 out of every 5 people in the third most populous state in the country.
The 2020 Census is just around the corner and preparations for it are already happening.
The Census happens once every 10 years and measures the number of people living in the United States. The Census is important for two main reasons: representation in the United States House of Representatives and federal funding for programs. Before the 13th amendment was ratified,
Blacks were only counted three-fifths of their white owners. The Census is our chance to make sure we are counted just as much as everyone else in this country. Let’s be clear — the Census is important to everyone, but during this Black History Month, let’s not forget that there was a time when we were counted less than that of our counterparts, and for that reason alone, we need to ensure that everyone in our community is counted.
Political representation is one of the reasons why the Census is so important. Currently, Florida has 27 members in the House of Representatives. This number changes based on the population update every 10 years, based on the Census. Florida is projected to have 29 seats in the House after the 2020 Census. Out of the current 27 members of the Florida delegation, only 4 of them are Black (Val Demings, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Frederica Wilson,), equating to about 15%. That is lower than the 16.8% our community makes up in this state. Furthermore, if Florida gets 29 congressional seats after 2020, but still only have 4 Black congressional
members, that’s only 13.8% of the 29 representatives, meaning our representation won’t be proportional to our actual population.
Even if you don’t care about politics, you should care about the dollars coming from the federal government to pay for programs like Medicare, foster care, and school lunch programs. Florida gets $29.3 billion every year from the federal government for programs based on the Census numbers. These dollars pay for programs we use every day.
This Black History Month, our community should remember that we were not always counted as whole individuals. When the 2020 Census comes, we need to remember our history – the Census is our chance every 10 years to let America know that we (African Diaspora) are here and are equal to everyone. Let’s make history together in 2020 and get everyone in our family and community counted. #2020blackpeoplecounted