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Washington, DC’s 1973 Acquisition of Home Rule after One Hundred Years: Confronting the Issues of Race and Representation in the Nation’s Capital Open Access

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Walter E. Fauntroy became Washington, DC’s first non-voting representative in Congress on March 23, 1971. Washingtonians had been without self-government for nearly a century, so as the district’s first Congressman, Fauntroy pushed for home rule legislation, overpowering opponents by threatening their political power. On July 19, 1973, Representative Fauntroy warned Frank Annunzio, a white representative from Chicago, about the threat of Republicans mobilizing black voters in order to remove Democrats from power. As examples, he cited the two cases of District Committee members John L. McMillan and Earle Cabell who were defeated as a result of “dramatic shifts in the black vote away from the Democratic party.” McMillan’s defeat was particularly notable, for as Chairman of the House District Committee, he led a group of white, southern segregationists in blocking home rule legislation from the House floor for over 20 years. In this letter, Fauntroy strongly implied that if representatives did not support DC home rule, as in the cases of McMillan and Cabell, they faced the possibility of losing their seats. Fauntroy concluded, “I am anxious to discuss my concerns...and offer some suggestions as to how I and other Black colleagues of mine, can be of assistance in nullifying such a strategy by our Republican opponents.”1 While Fauntroy claimed to be reaching out as a fellow Democrat, concerned with the position of his colleague against Republican opposition, he was, perhaps not so subtly, threatening Annunzio with the rising power of black voters nationally, in order to achieve self- governance for his own district.

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