North Carolina 12th District
“This is perhaps the Negro’s temporary farewell to Congress,” said George White, a Tarboro, N.C., lawyer and Republican, in his last days in the House of Representatives in 1901. Segregation was being imposed by law, and blacks informally but effectively were being driven from the voting rolls in the rural South. It was 28 years until another black candidate was elected to Congress (from Chicago), and 72 years until another African-American won in the South (in Atlanta). When White said his farewell, most North Carolina blacks lived on farms or in tiny towns. Through the 20th century, few moved to the textile towns, where most mills hired only whites, but some African-Americans did move to North Carolina’s larger cities. In the years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965, they were numerous enough to elect members to the state Legislature. And some black candidates were successful with white-majority constituencies, notably Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt. But North Carolina blacks were not concentrated in high enough numbers either in the rural areas or in the cities to become the majority of any congressional district, at least not one drawn compactly. No African-American from North Carolina followed White to Congress until the Democratic Legislature, after the 1990 census, drew two irregularly shaped black-majority districts. That resulted in the election in 1992 of Eva Clayton in the mostly rural and small-town 1st District, and the election of Melvin Watt in the 12th District.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
This 12th Congressional District of North Carolina was the most litigated district in the country during the 1990s, and was the focus of no fewer than four cases that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. It originally was made up of a series of scattered black precincts connected in some places by nothing wider than the lanes of Interstate 85, and it stretched 160 miles from Gastonia all the way to Durham. In the current version, drawn in 2001, the 12th remains a 100-mile-long, snake-like agglomeration that roughly parallels I-85 and includes African-American voters in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Lexington, Salisbury, and High Point, the international furniture center. A near-majority, 44%, of its residents are black. The Charlotte-area precincts account for a bit more than one-third of the district population, the Greensboro area is slightly more than 20%, and the Winston-Salem portion accounts for a little under 20%. In recent years, Hispanics have increased to 11%. This is North Carolina’s most urban district and includes the major banking center in downtown Charlotte. Politically, it is reliably though not overwhelmingly Democratic.