* Democratic Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
* Member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus
* Supports race-based affirmative action preferences in public college admissions and public-sector hiring
Born on August 4, 1970 in Crown Heights, New York, Hakeem Sekou Jeffries is the nephew of the longtime CCNY Black Studies professor Leonard Jeffries.
Hakeem Jeffries earned a BS in political science at Binghamton University in 1992. During his senior year there, he served as an executive board member of the school’s Black Student Union (BSU), which invited his controversial uncle, Leonard Jeffries — well known for his highly charged expressions of contempt for whites and Jews — to speak on campus for an undisclosed fee.
After a Jewish student group exhorted Binghamton University’s BSU to cancel Leonard Jeffries’ scheduled speaking engagement, Hakeem Jeffries led a news conference defending his uncle and his right to speak on campus. “We have no intention of canceling a presentation that contains factual information, proven through scholarly documents and texts,” said Hakeem Jeffries. “The proper way to way to debate scholarship is with scholarship–not with high-tech lynchings, media assassinations, character desecrations and venomous attacks.”
In the Binghamton University student newspaper Pipe Dream, Hakeem Jeffries and his fellow BSU executive board members co-authored a 1992 editorial defending Leonard Jeffries and condemning those who had compared the professor’s anti-white racism, to the anti-black racism of the Ku Klux Klan.
Further, in a February 21, 1992 editorial which he personally authored for the BSU student newspaper The Vanguard, Hakeem Jeffries again defended his uncle as well as Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Specifically, he claimed that “white media” and the “ruling elite” — in conjunction with black conservatives, whom he viewed a race traitors — were unfairly targeting the two because they had dared to challenge the legitimacy of a racist America’s white power structure. Hakeem Jeffries also defended “redistribution of wealth” and portrayed capitalism as an inequitable economic system in which blacks were inevitably doomed to fail. Some key excerpts:
“There has been a recent trend in the Black political arena which I believe threatens to sustain the oppression of the Black masses. The phenomenon I refer to is the rise of the Black conservative.
“During the period of African enslavement, our ancestors were given the duality of the Field Negro and the House Negro. The Field Negro labored from dawn ‘till dusk, had nothing but contempt for his white master, and most importantly, the majority of Black slaves, who were Field Negroes. In contemporary terms, what we would refer to as ‘the masses.’
“The House Negroes didn’t labor in the field, they were domestic servants. The House Negro was dressed up and was led to believe that he or she was better than those in the field. Most importantly, the House Negro sought to emulate the white master. This emulation was not designed with the interests of the masses at heart. Rather, the motivating force was personal gain.
“Perhaps this is the problem with the Black conservative politician of today. Their political agenda is not designed to contribute to the upliftment of their people. These right-wing opportunists espouse the political ideology of the power structure and, in return, they are elevated to positions historically reserved for whites.
“Or perhaps the trend is to have a new ‘token Black’ who emulates the white master in thought, instead of a ‘token Black’ who may have divergent ideological thought but is impotent because of numerical isolation.
“There are those who may feel that the Black conservative may well have the interests of the black masses at heart. Their supporters feel that advocating a right-wing agenda and embracing the Republican Party is more effective than opposing the system. This notion is simply unacceptable.
“Conservative political thought rejects the redistribution of wealth .Conservative political thought shuns social reforms and favors a huge defense industry. Conservative political thought does not advocate Civil Rights advances and deems affirmative action programs ‘quota systems’ and reverse discrimination. Most importantly, it is conservative political thought which maintains a socioeconomic structure in the United States where Blacks exist in the lower strata in disproportionate numbers. […]
“The Black conservative buys into the idea of the American dream, the dream in which hard work and perseverance eventually liberate and reap benefits. However, this totally ignores the economic reality of this country’s capitalist system. Capitalism necessitates the perpetuation of a permanent underclass. Capitalism in a racist society means that the underclass will be disproportionately Black.
“The American dream will never be a reality for most Blacks living in a racist and capitalist United States. The Black conservative’s strategy for our liberation is lacking. In fact, I question whether they believe their own rhetoric.
“A conservative seeks to maintain an elite business class through the promotion of multinational corporations and the military complex. Both serving to sustain the current situation of a minority of the people owning a majority of the wealth. The economic foundation of conservatism prevents an effective strategy of Black liberation, leading me to call into question the true motives of our right-wing brothers and sisters.
“Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the rise of Black conservatives is that of their popular acceptance by the predominately white media. Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, and Shelby Steele are hailed as our leaders and pointed to as examples for us to follow. I find it suspect when the white power structure and their propaganda emissaries, the media, tell us who our leaders should be. Do you think that a ruling elite would promote individuals who would seek to dismantle their [the ruling elites’] vice-like [sic] grip on power? Of course not.
“Doctor Leonard Jeffries and Minister Louis Farrakhan have come under intense fire. Where do you think their interests lie?
“Doctor Jeffries has challenged the existing white supremacist educational system and the longstanding distortion of history. His reward has been a media lynching, complete with character assassinations and inflammatory, erroneous accusations. […]
“The House Negro of the slavery era and the Black conservative of today are both opportunists interested in securing some measure of happiness for themselves within the existing social order. In both cases, the social order has Blacks occupying the lowest societal echelon.”
After graduating from SUNY Binghamton in 1992, Hakeem Jeffries went on to earn an MA in public policy at Georgetown University in 1994, and a JD at New York University Law School in 1997.
In the early 1990s, Jeffries was employed in the office of Washington, DC mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly. He subsequently clerked for federal judge Harold Baer (Southern District of New York) in 1998; was an associate at the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison from 1999-2003; worked as the litigation counsel for Viacom and CBS from 2003-06; and served as a Democrat in the New York State Assembly from 2006-12.
During his years in state government, Jeffries favored race-based affirmative action preferences in public college admissions and public-sector hiring; supported increased government spending as a means of promoting economic growth; condemned what he called “the systematic civil rights abuses that result from the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program,” which he viewed as racist; advocated alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders; co-sponsored a Student Loan Fairness Act that advocated loan forgiveness to borrowers who made 120 monthly payments over the course of 10 years; maintained that citizens should not be permitted to carry concealed firearms; and called for the transformation of vacant luxury condominiums into “affordable homes” for low-income families.
Shortly before the decennial U.S. Census in 2010, Jeffries joined forces with Al Sharpton and State Senator Eric Schneiderman in an effort to end what they termed “prison-based gerrymandering” in New York State. Their goal was to require the state to count incarcerated persons as residents of their home communities—rather than of the locales where they were imprisoned—for purposes of tabulating the Census data upon which legislative district lines (and the districts’ respective levels of political clout) would be based. In Jeffries’ view, this was particularly important for communities with large black populations, given the disproportionate degree to which African Americans are incarcerated. Click here for a more detailed explanation of this issue and its ramifications.
In 2012 Jeffries was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he continues to represent New York’s heavily Democratic, majority-black, 8th Congressional District covering sections of Brooklyn and Queens. He is a member of both the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), and has received strong campaign support from the Working Families Party.
In April 2013, soon after he was elected to Congress, Jeffries told The Wall Street Journal that he could scarcely remember the racial controversies in which his uncle, the aforementioned Leonard Jeffries, had been embroiled two decades earlier, when Hakeem Jeffries was still a student at Binghamton University. His lack of remembrance, said Hakeem Jeffries, was due to the fact that his parents, wanting him to remain focused on his studies, had shielded him from those controversies:
“I have a vague recollection of it other than remembering that it was a very stressful time for my father in particular–given the level of controversy and acrimony surrounding Dr. Jeffries. It had a great impact on my father at the time. My father’s a strong person so he never really showed it but that was his brother who was in the midst of the eye of the storm and that was what I remember….
“My mother made a very deliberate concerted effort to shield us from a lot of the controversy that took place. She didn’t want us to be distracted from our studies. My grandmother on my mother’s side always emphasized the importance of doing well in school and remaining focused.
“And so when a lot of the controversy took place and my brother and I were away at school. There was no Internet during that era and I can’t even recall a daily newspaper in the Binghamton, NY, area but it wasn’t covering the things that the New York Post and Daily News were at the time.”
Hakeem Jeffries later told a similar story to the AxeFiles podcast in 2019, saying: “My father made a deliberate decision to try to shield us from that controversy, because he was very concerned as to how it could just impact our wellbeing, our focus, because it was an intense situation.”
But in April 2023, a CNN KFile review uncovered the facts — cited earlier in this profile — about Hakeem Jeffries’ very detailed and intimate knowledge regarding his uncle’s hateful rhetoric and the controversy it was stirring up in academic circles. For details about what Hakeem Jeffries knew, and when he knew it, see the opnening section of this profile, titled “Close Ties to Professor Leonard Jeffries and His Anti-Semitic Rhetoric.”
On April 20, 2023, Congressman Jeffries falsely told reporters that he had never supported the views of his uncle: “I think I’ve made clear, consistently, that I do not share any of the controversial views that were expressed by my uncle more than three decades ago. Not now, not ever.”
On October 27, 2013, Jeffries and fellow CBC member Yvette Clarke were among the guest speakers at a Civic Engagement Banquet arranged by the Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), which describes itself as a “faith-based Dawah [proselytizing] and social service national organization.” The Muslim Brotherhood, in some of its documents, mentions MUNA as one of its component groups.
In January 2014 Jeffries was one of 13 House Democrats who co-sponsored a bill requiring a government agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, to study how hate speech on the Internet, mobile phones, television, and radio may “advocate and encourage violent acts and the commission of crimes of hate” against “vulnerable individuals.” “This legislation will mandate a comprehensive analysis of criminal and hateful activity on the Internet that occurs outside of the zone of the First Amendment protection,” said Jeffries.
In 2013 Jeffries co-sponsored the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, which called for raising the minimum wage for workers nationwide to $10.10 per hour. That same year, he voted against maintaining a work requirement for welfare recipients.
Jeffries was angered by a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury’s November 2014 decision not to indict a white police officer who had shot and killed an 18-year-old black male named Michael Brown in an August 9th altercation. Despite the wide circulation of wholly fraudulent reports suggesting that Brown had been shot while his hands were raised in compliant surrender, the physical, forensic, and legitimate eyewitness evidence showed conclusively that the young man was in fact shot after he had assaulted the officer and tried to steal his gun. On December 1, Jeffries took to the House floor to display the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture that had become symbolic of a massive anti-police-brutality protest movement stemming from Brown’s death. He characterized the gesture and its accompanying slogan as “a rallying cry of people all across America who are fed up with police violence” and with “the injustice involved in continuing to see young, unarmed African-American men killed as a result of a gunshot fired by a law-enforcement officer.” “This is a problem that Congress can’t run away from,” Jeffries declared.
Jeffries was outraged yet again on December 3, 2014, when a grand jury in New York chose not to indict a white police officer who, on July 17th, had been involved in a physical confrontation that resulted in the death of a 43-year-old black Staten Island resident named Eric Garner. According to Jeffries, the non-indictment “should shock the conscience of every single American who cares about justice and fair play.”
On March 9, 2017, Jeffries marked the twentieth anniversary of the death of the 24-year-old rap star Biggie Smalls, also known as Notorious B.I.G., by reciting some lyrics from the rapper’s 1994 song “Juicy”: “‘It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up! magazine. Salt-n-Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine. Hangin’ pictures on my wall, every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl.” He also characterized Small as having been “the King of New York” and “one of the world’s most important hip hop stars.” Jeffries ended his remaeks by saying, “Where Brooklyn at?”
In June 2017, Jeffries stood on the House floor and said that “so many folks dripping in hatred flocked to [Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential] candidacy,” and that Trump’s election represented a racist “backlash” against “eight years of progress” in America. “Why would people that worship at the altar of white supremacy [be] drawn to Donald Trump’s campaign?” Jeffries asked. “That’s not to say that every American who voted for Donald Trump is a racist,” he added. “We do know that every racist in America voted for Donald Trump. That’s a problem.” Further, Jeffries said it was unlikely that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would prosecute hate crimes, because he was “straight out of central casting” for a “good ol’ boy.”
During a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at Al Sharpton‘s National Action Network in January 2019, Jeffries likened President Trump to a Ku Klux Klan leader: “These are challenging times in the United States of America — we have a hater in the White House, a birther in chief, the Grand Wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. One of the things that we’ve learned is that while Jim Crow may be dead, he still got some nieces and nephews that are alive and well.”
With the federal government in the midst of a partial shutdown due to an impasse between President Trump, who demanded congressional funding for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the Democrats, who resolutely refused to authorize such funding, Jeffries said on December 30, 2018: “[W]hat Donald Trump and the Republicans want to do is waste $5 billion in taxpayer money on an ineffective, medieval border wall that is a 5th century solution to a 21st century problem. Yes, we need comprehensive immigration reform. Yes, we need to enhance border security. But we are not willing to pay $2.5 billion or $5 billion and wasting taxpayer dollars on a ransom note because Donald Trump decided that he was going to shut down the government and hold the American people hostage. That’s unreasonable.”
With the Democrats having recaptured control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, Jeffries became Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in January 2019.
On January 6, 2021 in the District of Columbia, President Trump delivered a speech to a massive crowd of his supporters and noted, toward the end of his talk, that many of the onlookers would soon be “marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” regarding what they viewed as election fraud that had cost Trump his re-election. Unfortunately, several hundred other people claiming to be Trump supporters swarmed the Capitol building and made their way inside, creating an atmosphere of crisis for several hours. Jeffries, in turn, blamed Trump personally for the actions of the mob. Calling Trump “treasonous” and “a clear and present danger,” the congressman said from the steps of New York City Hall: “Donald Trump must be removed from office immediately, he should be impeached, convicted and thrown out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and forever banished to the dustbin of history. On Monday, a privileged resolution will be introduced that will charge the President of the United States with inciting sedition.”
In a January 28, 2021 interview with MSNBC, Jeffries characterized supporters of former President Trump as “domestic terrorists and the white supremacists.” Asked “what happens if there’s no accountability for him or the rioters” who had occupied the Capitol on January 6, the congressman replied: “[P]art of the lesson of the first impeachment trial for him was that he could shoot holes in the Constitution on Pennsylvania Avenue and get away with it because Senate Republicans were prepared to bury their heads in the sand…. [E]very available option to hold him accountable for his actions should be undertaken…. And we’re not going to be cowed by the domestic terrorists and the white supremacists and the enemy combatants who want to stop us in our tracks. That would be giving in to them, and that’s not going to happen.”
In a February 7, 2021 interview on MSNBC, Jeffries commented on the possibility that at Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate, the former president’s attorneys would seek to equate the January 6 unrest at the U.S. Capitol with the Black Lives Matter rioting that had swept across the country throughout 2020. Said Jeffries:
“[I]t’s absolutely ridiculous, but it’s not surprising. It’s a false equivalence, and I believe it will be an attempt to engage in vicious race-baiting. The notion that you are going to equate some sporadic instances of civil unrest… how can you compare that to a violent attack on the Capitol when the president at the time summoned the mob to Washington, D.C., then incited the mob, and then directed the mob to march on the Capitol as part of an insurrection to halt the peaceful transfer of power, undermine our democracy, and resulting in the deaths of several Americans?… The two cannot be compared, and it shows the weakness of the argument that President Trump should be acquitted. He should not. He should be convicted.”
On October 11, 2021, which was Columbus Day, Jeffries tweeted: “Millions of indigenous people lost their lives during the genocide committed against them in the Americas. Today we pause in solemn recognition of this human tragedy. And recommit to uplift the original occupants of this land.”
On January 23, 2022, the New York Post reported that Jeffries, every year since 2010, had been paying less than $250 in annual property taxes on a $1.2 million Prospect Heights condominium unit in which he and his family resided — thanks to a massive property tax break granted under the 421-A abatement program heavily skewed toward wealthy developers and affluent tenants. During his tenure in the New York State Assembly (2006-2021), Jeffries had co-sponsored and voted for renewal of the 421-A law, which gave developers and residents significant property tax reductions over a 25- to 35-year period in exchange for their agreeing to make at least 20 percent of the apartments in their complex “affordable” for low-to-moderate-income people. Jeffries, whose yearly congressional salary of $174,000 was supplemented by the income of his wife, who served as a benefits manager at the powerful SEIU Local 1199 union, was entitled to continue receiving the tax break under the abatement program through the year 2032. Michael McKee, treasurer of Tenants PAC, said of the congressman: “It’s abusive. It’s ridiculous. With all due respect, Hakeem Jeffries doesn’t need help in paying his full property taxes. Jeffries walks around like he’s a man of the people. Meanwhile he’s ripping people off. It’s a ripoff of the taxpayers. He’s happy to get this sweetheart deal while screwing the public.”
On February 16, 2022, American Action Network — an organization aligned with House Republicans — released a campaign ad showing video footage of Jeffries having said sometime in the past: “We have to make sure the wealthy and well-connected pay their fair share.”
On the afternoon of May 14, 2022, an 18-year-old white man shot and killed 10 people in a Buffalo, New York supermarket located in the heart of a predominantly black community. Eleven of the 13 people who were shot, were black. Hours after the shooting, Jeffries tweeted: “Heartbroken for the victims who were slaughtered in Buffalo and their loved ones. Sickened by the persistence of racism and the poison of white supremacy. Determined to make sure that hate never wins.”
In a series of floor speeches on March 23, 2023, House Democrats took turns denouncing HR 5, the Parents Bill of Rights, characterizing the legislation as a fascist measure that would not only lead to book bans, but would also prevent children from learning about gay-and-transgender issues as well as the Jewish Holocaust.
Sponsored by Rep. Julia Letlow (R-Louisiana), HR 5 sought to: (a) require all public school districts to disclose their respective curricula, materials, and related budgets to the parents of the children in those districts; (b) require parental consent before students could participate in any surveys at school; (c) prohibit schools from selling student information “for commercial or financial gain”; and (d) guarantee parents’ right to speak at school board meetings, meet personally with their children’s teachers, and be informed of any significant disciplinary, academic, or psychological issues involving those youngsters.
Said Jeffries regarding HR 5: “Extreme MAGA Republicans don’t want the children of America to learn about the Holocaust. They want to ban a book called Melissa, a book describing in very personal terms the experience of a trans girl beginning to understand her identity … What’s so offensive about Melissa?… Extreme MAGA Republicans don’t want your child to learn about the LGBTQ+ experience in America. That’s not a decision that extreme MAGA Republicans here in Congress should make.”
On April 27, 2023, House Members Hank Johnson Jr. and Jamaal Bowman announced that they were reintroducing the Restoring Artistic Protection Act, or RAP Act, which they had first introduced during the previous Congress. The purpose of the bill, which had failed to gain traction in its first inarnation, was to prevent prosecutors from using the violent lyrics of musical artists as evidence against them in criminal and civil proceedings — a practice most commonly employed in cases involving defendants who were rap or hip-hop artists. Fox News provided context for the legislation by explaining how it would apply to the then-ongoing case against Grammy-winning rapper Jeffery Lamar Williams, better known as Young Thug, who had recently been charged with racketeering, gang activity, and illegal possession of a gun:
“Prosecutors allege Williams’ record label, Young Stoner Life (YSL), operated as a front for an organized crime syndicate responsible for ‘75 to 80% of violent crime’ in Atlanta, according to reports. Court documents detail instances in which individuals allegedly associated with the YSL gang wore or displayed symbols of ‘YSL’ in music videos posted on social media between 2016 and 2021 and rapped lyrics that mention ‘YSL’ or various descriptions of criminal activity, according to a local ABC report.
“In the 56-count indictment, prosecutors cite Williams’ songs in the same time frame, including Young Thug’s hit ‘Anybody’ and several numbers from YSL’s 2020 compilation album ‘Slime Language 2,’ including ‘Take It to Trial,’ ‘Ski’ and ‘Slatty.’ Court documents quote the song ‘Slatty’ as saying, ‘I killed his man in front of his momma, like f— lil bruh, sister and his cousin,’ ‘I shoot out,’ and ‘kill em, not leaving a trace.’ Prosecutors argue that the lyrics served in ‘[p]reserving, protecting and enhancing the reputation, power and territory of the enterprise [YSL].’”
House Minority Leader Jeffries backed the measure in an April 28 press conference, saying: “I don’t think that art and creativity should be weaponized in the criminal justice system, and hopefully we’ll be able to have some bipartisan support to move that legislation forward.”
For an overview of Jeffries’ voting record on an array of key issues, click here.
“Hakeem Jeffries” (Keywiki.org, Votesmart.org, HakeemJeffries.com, OnTheIssues.org)
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