• J. Phillip Tavernier

The Census & Why It's Important

Updated: Jul 31

The first census in the United States took place beginning on August 2, 1790. That Census

questionnaire asked just six questions: the name of the head of the household, the number of free white males older than 16, the number of free white males younger than 16, the number of free white females, the number of other free persons, and the number of slaves.

Three years prior to the first Census; in 1787, the South (Confederate states) and North (Union states) found themselves in a complex and perilous situation. The southern position

was that enslaved Africans and their children are people and should be counted for representation (in the U.S. Congress even though the enslaved could not vote) but are also property and therefore should not be counted for taxation.


The northern states had mostly outlawed slavery by 1787 and wanted the enslaved in the South counted as property for taxation. Eventually, The Three-Fifths Compromise was reached during the United States Constitutional Convention in 1787. The Three-Fifths compromise was to count three out of every five slaves as human beings for the sake of taxation and representation in Congress.


Americans have been struggling from the country’s beginning with settling the values promoted in the Constitution (all men are created equal) with the United States’ “original sin” of slavery and the oppression of the enslaved and their children. That defect which stained America’s creation and eventually plunged it into civil war in 1861is spitefully alive today with its knee on the neck of the American dream. Why else would black and white alike be shouting in the streets Black Lives Matter in 2020 unless they didn’t?


Some things have changed since then, but not all. For instance, instead of those 6 Census

questions previously mentioned, the 2020 Census now has 12 questions. There’s a place to

choose your race. But the Census count still determines the number of representatives a district gets in Congress. And from the days of being counted as 3/5ths, the black and brown people of this country are still labeled hard to count and are drastically undercounted and don’t receive a fair share of U.S. tax dollars in their community. Poverty, marginalization and government neglect have always been breeding grounds for inequality and injustice. The Census is not the sole answer but it’s one of many viable tools we can use to level the playing field and bring equity to communities in need of balance.


Hip Hop Artist, Activist, and Impresario Killer Mike gave a powerful speech at Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottom’s press conference regarding the riots, uprisings, and protests

engulfing Atlanta and the country from the televised murder of George Floyd (Rest In Power). Killer Mike said, “What I could tell you is if you sit in your homes tonight instead of burning your homes to the ground, you will have time to properly plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize in an effective way. And two of the most effective ways is first takin’ your butt to the computer and makin’ sure you fillin’ out your Census so people know who you are and where you are.” We agree.


Complete your Census today at my2020Census.gov and join the campaign for #CyberCensusDay on June 30, 2020, at www.olcdc.org.

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