Jesse Jackson and Condi Rice Most Important Black Leaders

A new poll of black Americans name Jesse Jackson and Condoleezza Rice as the “most important black leader.”

Jesse Jackson and Condoleezza Rice get the top support among blacks asked to name the nation’s “most important black leader,” according to an AP-AOL Black Voices poll. Next come Colin Powell and Barack Obama. Many blacks question whether any one person can wear the leadership mantle for such a large and diverse group of people. At the same time, two-thirds in the poll said leaders in their communities were effective representatives of their interests.

When blacks were asked to come up with the person they considered “the most important black leader,” 15 percent chose Jackson, a civil rights activist who ran for president in the 1980s, while 11 percent picked Secretary of State Rice, 8 percent chose former Secretary of State Powell, and 6 percent named Obama, a freshman Democratic senator from Illinois. About one-third declined to volunteer a name. Two of the four mentioned most often — Rice and Powell — are from a Republican administration that is unpopular with most blacks.

Less than one in five of those polled, 18 percent, said the current black leadership is doing a “very effective” job of representing the black community. Half described black leadership as “somewhat effective.” “I’m kind of disillusioned,” said retiree John Manning, who says the leadership is somewhat effective. The Democrat from Port Charlotte, Fla., added: “They seem to be going in different directions, there doesn’t seem to be a cohesiveness.”


One in five, 21 percent, said they were not sure whom to name among current black leaders and 13 percent chose no one. A few in the poll, 1 percent, named themselves. “What is ‘the most important black leader?'” asked Thomas Miller, a 59-year-old political independent who lives in Philadelphia. “You have to lead your own self, don’t put that on anybody else. Putting faith in somebody else is blind.”

Quite right.

It is indeed interesting to see Rice, an unabashed conservative who is high on many lists of potential Republican presidential or vice presidential nominees, and Colin Powell in the top three. Republicans have done a poor job of persuading middle class blacks who by all rights should be receptive to the party to vote that way. Democrats routinely garner 90-plus percent of the black vote.

Apparently, though, blacks don’t view the high profile black appointees of Republican presidents as mere tokens, as so many white liberals charge. Whether or when that will translate into party realignment is unclear.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, Race and Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. NoZe says:

    Is Condi a conservative? Although she’s certainly a Republican and supports Bush’s foreign policy, she’s been pretty coy about her positions on domestic issues!

  2. G A PHILLIPS says:

    All I know is that she’s got an I.Q. around 200, believes in God, and she knows how aim a nuclear fist strike, good enough for me. RICE/RUMMY/2008 RICE/RU MY/2008 RICE/RU MY 2008!!!!!

  3. Anderson says:

    I’m not sure what’s more pathetic, the notion that Jesse Jackson is a “leader,” or the glorification of the Worst National Security Advisor Ever.

  4. Herb says:

    For anyone to associate Jesse Jackson and Condi in the same sentence is obviously dulusional.

    Jesse is nothing more than a con artist and Condi is a Diplomatic Genius.

  5. Anderson says:

    Condi is a Diplomatic Genius

    I’d settle for *one* example of her Diplomatic Genius in action.

  6. McGehee says:

    Anderson, what’s Sandy Berger got to do with this? ;-p

  7. Anderson says:

    Hmmmm … definitely in the top 3. And a pretty lousy thief, in addition.

  8. Curtis Williams says:

    Tocqueville was wrong when he wrote that there were insurmountable barriers between the races. Slavery existed then, and that barrier has been erased. We still have the rich and the poor and the other monetary echelons, and political parties, but they are not so much barriers as checks and corrections of each other. What disturbs me is the fact that no clear cut standards exist for competence among politicians,
    with the result that a PhD.D like Condi Rice is serving under George W. Bush, whose academic qualifications are nothing worth mentioning. Every so-called top leader or president ought to
    be also academically top drawer, as Woodrow Wilson was. Talent and charisma are important, but academic achievement is too much neglected and should be a requirement. If we can’t demand
    higher entry requirements for our politicians, something is wrong with our educational system,and it should be corrected. People of Condi Rice’s academic quality should not be a rarity in the political arena.

  9. James Joyner says:


    I have a PhD but see no reason why that should be a requirement for a politician. Indeed, such specialization might be a hindrance.

    And Bush does have a Harvard MBA and a Yale undergraduate degree. He wasn’t an academic superstar, to be sure, but those are pretty decent academic credentials.

  10. Debbie Watson says:

    The Dems just had to badmouth Condi as every chance so I am not surprised by some of the comments in here. But you know what? It is the conservatives and the Republicans who will be selecting the next leader of our nation and if it is Secretary Condi Rice, (or may I say, VP Rice?, they will have to end their character assasination and debate on the facts. Yes, she is a high profile leader, and she is admired by many people, regardless of race or gender. In fact, I am amazed to read so many comments from men who want her to run and believe she is tough enough to win in 2008. Now that is a fabulous thing to witness in 2006.