Daniel Gillion’s (2016) theory of discursive governance contends that “the path to ameliorating these [racial] inequalities begin[s] with politicians’ willingness to engage in a conversation” (14). Floor speeches play an essential role in allowing leadership to assess the mood of the rank-and-file, send signals to administrative agencies and the courts about legislative intent, and take positions and claim credit in service of their reelection goals (Fenno 1978; Mayhew 1974). Legislative speechmaking allows members to effectively communicate to other elites, particularly interest groups, that a member is credibly committed to the interests of that group (Ray 2018). Additionally, a legislator’s speechmaking behavior is tied to their representation (home) style (Hill and Hurley 2002, 219–20).

It is clear that Black representatives see a great deal of value in their role in...

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