In 1984, the New York Times ran a story highlighting the almost universally white boards of directors among 300 Southern electric cooperatives serving populations with thousands of African American member-owners:
According to Oleta G. Fitzgerald, a staff lawyer with the [Southern Regional Council], a survey of 300 cooperatives in Southern states showed no more than 30 blacks among 3,000 board members elected at annual meetings by members to oversee, among other things, the co-ops’ operations and rates. [emphasis added]
In 32 years, little has changed for electric cooperatives in the South. A recent study published by The Rural Power Project shared results of a similar survey (of 313 cooperative boards) and found just 90 blacks among the 3,000 board members. This 4% proportion of African American board leadership is in states where the black population represents more than 22% of the total. The disparity is even higher between men and women, with men representing 90% of board members but only half the population.
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