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Rep. Steve Cohen Makes History

The Associated Press reports:

The House on Tuesday issued an unprecedented apology to black Americans for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow segregation laws.

“Today represents a milestone in our nation’s efforts to remedy the ills of our past,” said Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

And who is behind this historic resolution? None other than Rep. Steve Cohen, the freshman Jewish congressman who represents a predominantly black district in Memphis, Tenn. — indeed, according to the AP, “the only white lawmaker to represent a majority black district.” Cohen, the AP reports, introduced the apology resolution as one of his first acts in Congress.

But Cohen has had his own fraught history when it comes to the issue of race. Originally elected two years ago following a primary contest that featured a crowded field of black candidates, Cohen had faced criticism from those who thought that his majority-black district should be represented by an African American. (Cohen had expressed interest in joining the Congressional Black Caucus, but the caucus has a policy of only admitting black legislators as members.)

Since then, as this resolution highlights, Cohen has made some progress in building bridges with black members of Congress. Many African-American representatives were among the original co-sponsors of his apology resolution, and the AP reports that several members of the Congressional Black Caucus are backing Cohen’s reelection bid against a black primary challenger.

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