History of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

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"The Joint Center is truly one of the leading academies of independent thought in Washington today."
President George H.W. Bush, 1990

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies was founded in 1970 to lend a hand to black leaders as they traveled the uncharted road from civil rights activism to the political establishment. Its most prominent founders were Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, a renowned social psychologist, and Louis E. Martin, the legendary news paper editor who had become a key presidential advisor on issues affecting black America.

Louis E. Martin                       Kenneth B. C

Originally known as the Joint Center for Political Studies, the Joint Center brought together black intellectuals and professionals to provide training and technical assistance to newly elected black officials. 

The history of the Joint Center has not only reflected the progress African Americans have made since the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but has also mirrored the nation's political and socio-economic progress over the last five decades. When the Joint Center first opened its doors, there were 1,469 black elected officials (BEOs) in the United States. There are now over 10,000.

Increasing black political participation formed the foundation of much of the Joint Center's work during the 70s and the 80s. However, as the civil rights era gave way to the era of "economic rights," the Joint Center signaled its expanding focus on job creation and workforce development and changed its name to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. 

From 1972 to 2011, FOCUS magazine provided coverage of national issues to our leadership audience. Over 18,000 readers, nearly half of whom are black elected officials, read the magazine for its in-depth, yet straightforward features on politics and the broad range of economic and social concerns.

Click here to read The Joint Center: Portrait of a Black Think Tank by Juan Williams.

Click here for historical Joint Center photos.

Click here for photos of historical Joint Center Publications.

Click here for archived versions of FOCUS magazine.