Pete Buttigieg visits Morehouse in effort to build Black support

Morehouse College student Keron Campbell snaps a selfie with presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Ind., at Morehouse College on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

 Pete Buttigieg recently spoke at Morehouse College in an effort to expand his appeal among Black voters who are critical to winning the Democratic presidential primary.

The 37-year-old white mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is gaining momentum in the overwhelmingly white early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. But unless his campaign can broaden its reach to minorities, he could stall in more diverse states such as Nevada and South Carolina. 

Buttigieg has spent recent weeks reaching out to Black Democratic figures, from well-known senior leaders to city and community level activists, and gets high marks for being an attentive listener. But the pressure is building to demonstrate he can win over Black voters, who for now have largely sided with former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I applaud his efforts” to “build out his coalition,” said Nikema Williams, the first Black woman to become Georgia Democratic Party chairwoman. Still, she said, he “has a lot of work to do.”

That makes his appearance at the historically Black, all-male Morehouse especially important. Buttigieg plans to unveil a post-secondary education plan that would, among other things, dedicate $50 million to Morehouse and other HBCUs.

Buttigieg has talked about systemic racism on the campaign trail and the debate stage, and unveiled a lengthy plan this summer aimed specifically at redressing generations of inequality in areas ranging from education to housing to health care. Buttigieg has spoken about his Douglass Plan — named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass — in front of white and minority communities.