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Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

(29 November 1908 4 April 1973)

Claude Hargrove

Fayetteville State University

BOOKS: Marching Blacks: An Interpretive History of the Rise of the Black Common

Man (1945. Revised, New York: Dial Press, 1973);

Keep the Faith, Baby! (New York: Triden Press, 1967);

Adam by Adam: The Autobiography of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (New York: Dial Press, 1971);


U.S. Congress. House. Additional Views of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., on Minority Report. 79th Cong., 2 sess. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1946.

U.S. Congress. House. The New Image in Education: A Prospectus for the Future by the Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, Adam C. Powell. 87th Cong., 2 sess. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1962.

U.S. Congress. House. Adam Clayton Powell. Hearings, February 8, 14, 16, 1967. 90th Cong., 1st sess. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1967.

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., minister, social justice activist, and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, first became famous by association with his father, the minister of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem from 1908 to 1937. The younger Powell followed his fathers path, actively participating in the churchs social welfare programs in the late 1920s and throughout the Great Depression. The economic crisis caused Powell to involve himself in racial and social justice causes, particularly those involving jobs for African Americans in New York. He began to be known as a speaker outside the church in these years, and he wrote columns in African American newspapers, one of which he founded and published. In 1937 he took charge of the church, and in 1945 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, becoming the second African American representative elected since the Reconstruction period. In that role Powell took part in the growing Civil Rights movement, and eventually a piece of legislation he had sponsored made its way into the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He had always been controversial, but in these years he faced a series of scandals that ended his political career. He wrote his autobiography shortly before his death in 1973.

Powell was born on 29 November 1908 in New Haven, Connecticut, to Adam Clayton Powell and Mattie Fletcher Powell. His sister Blanche was ten years old at the time. Born in 1865 in Virginia, twenty-five days after Robert E. Lees surrender at Appomattox, the senior Powell was a Baptist minister whose prominence in the Harlem community exerted a strong determining force on the future of his son. The father had worked in West Virginia and Ohio coal mines, but unfailingly gambled away most of his money until he experienced a religious conversion at a revival meeting, decided to lead a life of sobriety, and began in 1885 to work as a

Baptist minister. Powell, Sr., ministered to the congregation of the Abyssinian Baptist Church from its hundredth anniversary year of 1908, shortly after Adams birth, to 1937, when his only son inherited the pastorate. Abyssinian Baptist was more than a church; it was a powerful force in Harlem for social justice, well respected throughout New York and adjacent states. Powell, Sr. built Abyssinian from church from a congregation of about sixteen hundred to above ten thousand, and he helped to establish the social service mission of Abyssinian Baptist by erecting a new church building, a community house, and a home for the aged.

Adam Powell, Jr., grew up in Harlem in comfort, with nice clothes, vacations, a nanny named Josephine, and good table talk. Powell, Sr. adhered to many of the tenets of Marcus Garveys belief system, and Powell, Jr., at the age of 15 joined Marcus Garvey's African Nationalist Pioneer Movement. He attended high school at Townsend Harris Hall. He had a checkered college career, first attending City College of New York, then flunking out after two bad semesters. Afterward, Powell went into serious party mode. In the 1920s Harlem, with hundreds of speakeasies, rent parties, and dance halls, was a wild bachelor's delight. The modest amount of money he made as a kitchen helper, he spent on gambling, women, and liquor. He was his fathers son -- of a bygone time back in West Virginia. In March 1926, Blanche Powell died suddenly of peritonitis.

So Powell Senior pushed his son back into college, this time to an almost all-white Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. Powell came from an extremely fair-skinned family, several of whom had passed as white on any number of occasions his father when traveling in the South or in Germany, for example, or his sister when working as a stenographer on Wall Street. When he first went to Colgate Powell passed as white, but was exposed by classmates

who did research in New York and found that his fathers church was in Harlem. He very quickly made it up with the handful of other young black male students, however, by apologizing forthrightly and offering to help one of them with German, at which he excelled. In the summers his father insisted that he must work, so Powell found employment, as many college students did, in resort towns of New England. He still found his way back to the night life of New York City from time to time, and on one such trip he met the woman who became his first wife, Isabel Washington. She was a Catholic from Savannah, Georgia, married, and working as a dancer and actress, none of which recommended her to the senior Powell.

Young Powell had an interest in going to Harvard to study medicine, but later, with some prodding, realized that one day his father's well-off church could be his for the asking, so he changed his mind about medicine to become a healer of souls. Powell was better educated than most civil rights activists of his day, but fell short in formal theological training. His real training for the ministry came from hearing thousands of Powell, Sr.s sermons and witnessing many of his good works. His first sermon at his fathers church was delivered on Good Friday, 1930, and he graduated from Colgate that June. His father rewarded him with a trip to Asia and North Africa, and he returned in October. Powell briefly took graduate courses at Union Theological Seminary, but then finished a masters degree in religious education at Columbia University Teachers College in 1932. Going to college part-time, he worked as an assistant pastor under his fathers supervision and as the business manager of the church. Powell ran a free food pantry, job referral service, and literacy classes. As a preacher he cautioned women parishioners, who were mostly domestic servants, to give to the church only what they could afford.

As a leader Adam Powell, Jr. inclined toward intolerance of racism and the use of racial rhetoric in denouncing racists and overly cautious black leaders. His complexion, oratorical skills, natural self-confidence, and quick wit earned Powell both admiration and hatred from whites and from many black leaders, who generally espoused a philosophy of gradualism as a strategy for challenging white racism. Powell was a radical from the start, a lover of both justice and pleasure. He was styled a militant by both the white media and conservative African Americans (who feared white backlash in northern states where they had made some gains).

The firing of five black interns from Harlem Hospital in the spring of 1930 prompted one of Powells first public acts to promote racial justice. He had already joined his father and members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in taking on the remaining Tammany Hall fixtures who exerted control over the inferior hospital the only one available for African Americans in the area. Eventually the group had forced the resignation of a city commissioner over the issue. The interns claimed their dismissals were due to racial discrimination and asked Powell to represent them. Powell formed a support committee and staged a series of mass rallies to dramatize the issues. The action culminated in Powell leading 6,000 blacks to a Board of Estimates meeting at City Hall. While the demonstrators waited in the streets, Powell took the interns case before the board, persuading them to reinstate the interns immediately and order a general reform of the hospital. In 1932, Powell finally convinced his father to allow him to marry Isabel Washington once her divorce was final. She agreed to be baptized and join the church, and they were wed on 8 March 1933. Powell adopted her son, Preston.

A New York Post reporter requested a comment from Powell on the Harlem Riot of 1935; he strongly criticized job and housing discrimination in New York City and police brutality. Powells remarks elicited wide support in the Black community and led him to contribute a regular column, Soap box, to the Amsterdam News. Powell understood the number one issue for most people was making a living; African Americans were shoved onto the bottom rung of jobs in Harlem and throughout America. The Great Depression harmed nearly everyone, but for African Americans the situation worsened already bad rates of unemployment and poverty everywhere in America. In Atlanta, Georgia, brash white men calling themselves the black shirts demanded that no African American hold a job until all whites were employed. Traditional black jobs began to go to unemployed whites. In the midst of black America, on 125th Street in Harlem, only two African Americans were employed: one as a domestic and another as a janitor. In response, Powell began a campaign for jobs on two fronts. Dont buy where you cant work, he bellowed to the jobless of Harlem who shopped at the many stores on that thoroughfare, and the command became a slogan in all the groups concerned. In months the owners of retail stores, pawn shops, restaurants, cleaners, and dozens of other businesses relented and started hiring African Americans in higher level jobs as well as traditional ones. Powell then took on a political ally, Fiorello LaGuardia, mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of World War II. Powell wanted African Americans placed in city jobs, not just as janitors but as motormen and conductors. The spoils system, maintained by the politicians and the unions, had implicitly banned African Americans from civil service jobs. The popular Little Flower was reluctant to battle Powell publicly and thus weaken the African

American-Democratic party alliance; he made important concessions. Thousands were not hired, but the point was made; African Americans could realistically aspire to desirable jobs. In 1937 Powell inherited his fathers pulpit, which he used for political organizing; the church had about two-dozen full-time and part-time employees with ties to various sectors of the Harlem community. In 1938 Shaw University, in Raleigh, North Carolina, awarded Powell an honorary doctorate of divinity. Powell forced the vendors of the 1939 World's Fair to hire and promote African American employees. In 1941 he won a city council seat as an independent. Powell rejected party loyalty: I always liked the guy who was nationally a Democrat, locally a Republican, theoretically a Socialist, but practically a Communist.


Americans, Powell reasoned, should not be tied to one party; thus they could be swing voters with greater political weight. He also formed important alliances with Jewish leaders in the city, in particular Morris Rosenblatt, who recognized Powells organizing abilities and often asked him to speak at Zionist rallies, and Stanley Isaacs, with whom Powell drafted housing bills. In 1941 Powell and Mayor LaGuardia endorsed each other and campaigned together. Powell was elected to the city council that year; he continued to press for civil rights and for jobs for African Americans in public transportation and the city colleges.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation began to monitor Powell in 1942, as his influence drastically increased. Powell co-founded and published the Peoples Voice from 1942 to 1946. Leader of the largest African American church in the nation (13,000 members--a sizeable basis of support), he was ready to use his ample skill in political demagoguery and his charisma in defense of African American nationalism. At the time only few African Americans were on the faculty of the city-run colleges. An instructor, an African American and a member of the

Communist Party, was terminated at the City College of New York. In the city council Powell raised the general issue of African American faculty positions and introduced a resolution to eliminate discrimination in the city colleges; however, a committee of inquiry concluded that the colleges did not discriminate and did hire faculty on the basis of merit. Still, Powells resolution angered many of his white supporters. Powells consistent and continuous criticism of the city government also strained relations between him and Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who had come to see Powell as irresponsible and opportunistic. Powell saw LaGuardia as paternalistic, and other African Americans agreed with him. In the midst of their growing distrust, in July 1943 Detroit exploded in a race riot, requiring federal troops to end the riot. Black and white migration from the South had fueled the outbreak of hostility. Rumor making stirred both blacks and whites to violence. Blacks believed that whites had raped and murdered a black woman and her daughter and then killed them. Whites believed that blacks were randomly assaulting white women. Black and white gangs did the rest with stones and guns stolen from pawn shops. Powell warned LaGuardia and the city council that conditions in Harlem paralleled Detroit and that a race riot seemed likely if measures were not taken to ameliorate the many problems of Harlem.

The next month his prediction proved accurate as Harlem blew up again over an incident involving Private Robert Bandy, charged with assaulting a police officer during the arrest of an African American woman. Rumors spread that police officers had killed a black soldier who was trying to protect his mother. Black gangs looted stores and burned buildings. Both the mayor and Powell called for calm, which returned after two days of rioting. Powell praised LaGuardias handling of the police and keeping casualties down. Despite Powells refusal to use

the riot for political purposes, it improved his relationship for the time being with white supporters. Then the state legislature created a new congressional district in Harlem which guaranteed that an African American would be elected to Congress. In 1944 Powell was elected to Congress as a Democrat; he was candidate for all three major parties, and even had the backing of the Communists. Powell was the second black to be elected to Congress since the Reconstruction era (William Dawson of Chicago was the first Black to be elected in the 20th century to Congress). Powell served as congressman for the new district from 1945 until 1971. Powells wife, Isabel Washington Powell, had figured importantly in helping his campaign for the New York City council and in his election to Congress, although she said afterward that she had advised against politics as a career. As Congressman Powell rose to national celebrity, however, he began to see his wifes background as a hindrance to his career; they separated in late 1944. Even before his divorce was legal, Powell attended official functions in Washington, D.C. in the company of Hazel Dorothy Scott, a young, pretty, and talented jazz and classical pianist and singer with a Julliard education. Born in Trinidad and Tobago and acclaimed as a musical genius by her teachers, she was very suitable to Washington, D.C.s Black privileged class. In April 1945 Powells mother died. The Powell divorce became final in June of that year. Hazel Scott and Powell married in Stamford, Connecticut on 1 August 1945. She soon found, however, that Adam Powells habitual infidelity left her alone and inconsolably miserable. Powells personal life was veiled from his admirers; his detractors knew some of the scandalous details and waited for a chance to discredit him. Many aspects of his private life apart from his family remained cloaked in mystery until later, but clearly all was never well in Powells house. Hazel Scott was an established celebrity when Powell met her; she socialized with jazz music stars and had been in films. After the marriage she continued to live in her own sphere apart from Powell, which gave her much satisfaction, with a TV show, The Hazel Scott Show, Broadway plays, and successful recordings like Tico Tico. She was a critic of Senator McCarthy and racial segregation; her show was cancelled when she was accused of being a Communist sympathizer. Scott never found acceptance in his church, and the pair established a permanent residence in White Plains, New York. Nor did Powell much resemble other African-American ministers. He claimed he followed only the teachings of Jesus as embodied in the Gospels, not the entire Bible, because it is too filled with contradictions. (quoted in Charles V. Hamilton,

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of An American Dilemma, p. 85) Powell did not see a moral conflict between his transgressions and the basic tenets held by most Christians on conduct. He publicly consumed alcohol, smoked, and had adulterous affairs. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.s interior dimensions were not easy to understand; he was personable and full of energy, but he lived in permanent motion with little time for deep reflection on religion or politics. Hazel Scott Powell later claimed that her husband suffered from hyperthyroidism, and that this glandular imbalance accounted for Powells indefatigable vigor in play and work as both congressman and pastor. The image of a tireless and cool Powell was vital to his success as a minister and civil rights activist.

In January 1945, Powell began his first term in Congress, immediately launching an assault on antique southern customs and their most vocal defenders. This breach of the informal segregation of the Capitol earned much dislike from southern congressmen and a reputation of being brash. Congressman William Dawson observed the racist customs by carrying his lunch to the Capitol in a paper bag. Dawson opined that he could achieve more for his constituents through quiet and thoughtful demeanor and dialogue. Powell defied congressional policies that were racist, insisting on ending segregation in the armed forces and public schools. Powell introduced legislation to outlaw lynching and poll taxes without success. He also fought to prohibit discrimination in housing and employment. Congressman John E. Rankin of Mississippi, a white supremacist, numbered among the first of Powells new colleagues to feel his wrath; after Rankin made ethnic slurs against Jewish people, Powell called for congressional censure. Rankin announced that he would not sit by Powell in Congress. Powell replied angrily that he shared the sentiment and that Rankin was a fascist fit to sit by the likes of Hitler and Mussolini. Powell readily won the approval of African Americans in Harlem and throughout the


Dressing down a southern racist guaranteed Powells continuous electoral victories in

the 22nd Congressional district.

These were heady years for Powell. Writers Zora Neale Hurston and Ann Petry worked for his campaign at various times, and the money was pouring in. In 1946 Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., married Inez Means, who was blonde, fair, and rumored white but for his son, Powell Sr.s new relationship meant even more freedom. Powells son, Adam Clayton Powell III (Skipper) was born on 17 July 1946, and whatever their other differences, both Powell and Scott were devoted to their son. Powell sustained political wounds, however, when he tangled with President Harry S. Truman over the disrespect shown his wife by Bess Truman, whom Powell decried as the last lady of the land when she did not give up her membership in the racially discriminating Daughters of the American Revolution. (quoted in Wil Haygood, The King of the Cats: the Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., p. 129) The organization had denied Hazel Scott the use of Constitution Hall because of her race, just as it had done to Marian Anderson a few years before. President Truman became very angry at Powells comments, made to the national media, and Powell quickly found himself marginalized by the president and the Democratic Party. For six years Powell was not invited to the White House. Federal patronage for Harlem was routed through the office of Congressman Dawson. Powells pride and impulsiveness limited his ability to help his Harlem constituents until the 1960s, although his behavior continued to win their approval. Given the reality in the national Capital, Powells influence was restricted anyway. Racial segregation was the norm; racist epithets still enjoyed casual use in Congress by southerners like Theodore Bilbo, James Eastland, and John Rankin. Nonetheless, Powell saw himself as a courageous fighter for social

justice and racial equality: "I'm the first bad Negro they've had in Congress," he [HLF2] bragged. He made more enemies on Capitol Hill than perhaps any legislator before or since. Powells life and times coincided with the momentous events that led to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In May 1954 the Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia visited Powells church and awarded him the Gold Cross of Ethiopia for his Depression-era work of relief in Harlem: he wore it everywhere. Although Powell was a prominent and popular representative from Harlem, he was never fully accepted by more traditional black leaders. In a real sense, Powell stood between two extremes: Black nationalists who wanted self-segregation and possibly a separate nation and gradualists who waited for the courts to act or for the hearts of men to change. Powells approach combined the heated language of revolution with the restraint of nonviolence, but Powell was a foe of racism, not the white race. Often when he attacked racism, however, some of Powells critics and enemies saw it as anti-white racism. In the short term Congressman Powells efforts proved more productive in his drive to desegregate the military and the government. The speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, had admonished Powell to observe the U.S. Capitols segregation etiquette in restaurants, barbershops, and gymnasiums. Powell ground down those mainstays of racism without stint and demanded the seating of African American journalists in the Houses press gallery.

From the very beginning of his rise to political power, however, he had been pragmatic and cynical, courting Communist support and then snubbing those supporters, pulling strings to keep his adopted son, Preston, out of combat in World War II, and demanding large sums of cash in exchange for speaking engagements and political favors. After Truman froze him out, Powell threw support to the Republicans for a few years, especially after his father died in June 1953. In

the 1956 presidential election Powell supported the Republican Dwight Eisenhower. Powell believed that Eisenhower, without the need to satisfy southern Democrats, would be more progressive on civil rights. Powell might have bolted the Democrats for personal reasons, also, such as to forestall a federal tax fraud investigation that began in the early 1950s, when several of Powells aides were convicted of income tax evasion, and rumors circulated that they had also given Powell kickbacks from their salaries.

In the late 1950s he began to have to face some consequences of his actions over the past decade. In early 1957 Hazel Scott left him, moving to Paris with their son. Powell was indicted in 1958 for tax evasion; the trial resulted in a hung jury, and the Justice Department declined to retry him. In late 1959, following surgery to remove a benign tumor from his chest, Powell went to Puerto Rico, where he met Yvette Flores. About the same time Powell declared war on organized crime when it began to edge out Black numbers runners in Harlem. When city police were not responsive enough, Powell began to name names on the floor of the House of Representatives. There he had immunity, but when he repeated the charges as a guest on a television show, in March 1960 Esther James, whom he had identified as a bag woman for police graft, brought suit against him for defamation and libel. Powell refused to make a settlement, and the case dragged on for eight years. He ignored all seven subpoenas.

During the presidential campaigns of 1960 he returned to the Democrats, at first to support Johnson Kennedys record on civil rights did not impress him. Later he supported John F. Kennedy, bringing with him many of the African American votes that had gone to Eisenhower in 1956. Powell appeared on the podium with Kennedy at an October 1960 campaign stop in Harlem. Despite the presence of an aging Eleanor Roosevelt, Kennedy made jokes to the effect

that Powell probably had more children named after him than Jefferson or Washington, not just because of his statesmanship. Shortly after his divorce became final, Powell returned to Puerto Rico in December and married Yvette Flores. He was still friendly with Fidel Castro and took his new wife by boat to Cuba to meet him. Their son Adam Diego Powell (Adamcito) was born in 1961. Powells legislative accomplishments were significant during the administrations of President John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. The so-called Powell Amendment, a rider on appropriation bills requiring states to desegregate public schools, was, according to Powell himself, his greatest accomplishment. The Amendment, in reality crafted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was voted down; however, its concept and Powells rhetoric helped to shape the ideology of African American goals in the long struggle for equality and social justice. The essence of the Powell Amendment finally reached fruition in Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Kennedys presidency coincided with Powells rise to seniority in the House and the chairmanship of the powerful House Committee on Education and Labor; the committee controlled a significant fraction of the domestic budget. The committee approved over fifty measures establishing federal program for minimum wage increases, education and training for the deaf, Head Start, school lunches, vocational training, student loans and standards for wages and work hours, as well as aid to elementary and secondary education and public libraries. During this time Powells relationships with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Kenneth Clark offered some insight into Powells character. When King threatened pickets at the Republican convention where Eisenhower was to be nominated, Powell indicated to King that he was

prepared to make public the rumors that King was having a homosexual relationship with Bayard Rustin. Powell and Kenneth Clark clashed over the executive directorship of HARYOU, Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited and ACT, Associated Community Teams, projects. In 1965 President Johnsons war on poverty awarded $110 million to Clarks project; Powell insisted on a merger between ACT, his pet project, and HARYOU. The struggle between the two was long and fiery. When Clark was asked about his relationship with Powell, he said, I like him. Adam was one of the most honest, corrupt human beings I have ever met. One of the reasons I like Adam is that he had so few illusions. Clark said Powell told him during their conflict, Ah, Kenneth, stop being a child. If you come along with me, we can split a million bucks. (quoted in Kenneth Clarks New York Times obituary, Kenneth Clark, Who Helped End Segregation, Dies at 90, 2 May 2005) Clark said he turned down the offer. Powells habit of sarcasm and outspokenness gravely wounded him politically. He did not seem to engender loyalty in individuals but in groups and especially among his Harlem voters. He had no permanent friends; he sided with traditional civil rights groups and later would accuse them of being unworthy of the support of African Americans. Such behavior often made Powell look like a loose cannon who easily alienated many supporters. Powells lavish lifestyle and over seas junkets made him a large target for his fellow congressmen and others who never wished him well. The more powerful Powell became, the more often his name became associated with scandal. By the mid-1960s his legislative gains could not protect him from the defection of allies and the results of his own corrupt habits. Martin Luther King did not criticize him, nor did the other civil rights leaders. Powells customary argument, its because I am black proved not as successful as it had in earlier decades. Attempting to polish his stained image, Powell changed his strategy, portraying himself

as a contemplative and smart political leader. His oratory had served him well in the past, and he thought perhaps it would again. He took to the stump: in a Chicago speech entitled My Life Philosophy, he outlined a program that would move the civil rights movement to its next stage. The speech, actually a position paper as well as an attempt to establish Powell as a thoughtful and moderate leader, explained the development of his ideas over the decade. He described what needed to be done to complete the civil rights movement in the latter sixties.

Powell noted that Martin Luther King, Jr. had fought segregation, as he had, but what came next in correcting centuries of racism was debatable. Stokely Carmichael and the Black Power movement were dangerous, he thought, and would cause a white backlash. Powell called instead for audacious power through self-assertion, emphasizing the importance of black pride and more and better jobs for African Americans. African Americans, Powell said, were not fruitful producers, with capital in hand, nor were they wise consumers. Even this attempt at moderation failed, however, when detractors emphasized Powells comment that the Negro revolt must change into a black revolution.[HLF3] Powell, justifiably, claimed that without going beyond desegregation and establishing economic and social justice, African American progress in America would stall and African Americans would remain the the hewers of wood and carriers of water.[HLF4] Criticism from Powells colleagues continued unabated. In 1966 a House committee found Powell had improperly placed his wife on his committees payroll and vacationed at committee expense in Europe and the Bahamas. Powell claimed that he was doing no more than other members of Congress. He further argued that he was being held to a racist double standard. Many of his old foes, including Kenneth Clark, agreed, but that did not help him.

Powells seniority was a threat to many congressmen who out ranked Powell but were older or would soon retire; others feared Powell at 58 could serve for another decade or longer, or perhaps even become Speaker of the House. Powell finally escaped to Bimini in 1966 with his receptionist, Corinne Huff (a former Miss Ohio). Huff had been with Powell on the Queen Mary to Europe in 1962 when she was 21, along with Tamara Hall (an associate labor counsel for Education and Labor Committee). Powell was playing Russian roulette with his career and risking being sent to prison. Members of the House were happy to investigate him for pocketing congressional employment paychecks to his wife and for taking junkets abroad with female staffers. Conservatives and southerners saw an opening to do away with the racial agitator and liberal. Powells liberalism earned him a 100 percent rating by the Americans for Democratic Action, and he was a key player in Kennedys New Frontiers and Johnsons Great Society. Johnson was the only one who could manage Powell, but he stayed silent during Powells troubles. In several telephone calls President Johnson reprimanded Powell for not keeping his word about promised legislation. In 1967 a select committee of the House recommended public censure of Powell, stripped him of his committee chairmanship and seniority, and dismissed Huff. The committee also recommended that Powell be fined, but in March the House rejected these proposals and voted 307 to 116 to exclude him from the Congress for the rest of the term.

In 1968 Powell won a special election to fill the vacancy caused by his expulsion, but Powell did not attempt to take his seat, knowing that Congress would continue to exclude him. In 1969 the U.S. Supreme Court held that although Congress could expel a member, it could not deny a seat to someone duly elected. Powell finally took his seat after an absence of two years,

but without seniority and with his pay docked to pay for financial abuses. In 1970 Charles Rangel emerged from a field of several Democratic contestants to defeat Powell. In 1971 Powell completed his autobiography. He died of prostate cancer on 4 April 1973 at the age of 65.

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., lived an astonishing life in the midst of the African American struggle for equality and social justice. To only emphasize his crusade for fair employment, adequate housing, and integrated education in New York City and his congressional record would omit the heart of his political life, however. Powell was a complex individual who seemed to be unable to compromise or cooperate with friends and political opponents to gain some political benefit. Many articles and several books have been written about Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Some of them point out his shortcomings as congressman and as clergy; others praise his courage and steadfast devotion to his 22nd Congressional District of Harlem and to African Americans across the nation. Charles Rangel later said of Powell:

Adam Powell was one of the most effective legislators who ever served in Congress. He was the only idol we had in those days in Harlem. He was audacious and all of us thought when we entered politics that we wanted to be like Adam. God must have sent him, because well never see another like him.

The philosophical Powell, while unformed by education or contemplative thought over time, was experientially shaped by his fathers sermons, impressions as a teenage listener to Marcus Garveys speeches on Black Nationalism, and a dozen street corner orators who advocated a variety of ideas challenging the status quo. Unstructured as this education was, it allowed for a kind of pragmatism that fitted well with Powells innate cynicism and smart mind. Powell understood sooner than many African Americans the mercilessness of capitalism, the

natural rights of all human beings to be equal before the law, the importance of apposite employment in the slums of America, and the necessity of intellectually confronting racism and segregation. Like W.E. B. Dubois and Kenneth Clark, the psychologist and steadfast warrior for improvement of the public schools in Harlem, Powell seemed to reject integration for desegregation. Desegregation did not require, Powell claimed, that African Americans discard cherished values by assimilation into the culture of the larger society. In that sense, Powell was a kindred spirit to Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, who believed that Black culture was good enough and surrendering it would be an implicit admission of their peoples inferiority to other ethnic groups. Powells constituents regarded him as Mr. Civil Rights although he exhibited character flaws and suffered under racial double standards. (quoted in Haygood, King of the Cats, p. 171) Powell had excellent prospects and might have parlayed his rhetorical skills into true political greatness, but his personal limitations in the end proved too great to overcome. His life was the subject of a 2002 film created by his sons, entitled Keep the Faith, Baby!

References: Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989, Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1991); Alexander E. Curtis, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: A Black Political Educator (New York: ECA, 1983); Albert N.D. Brooks, Profile of a Fighter, Negro History Bulletin 20 (May 1957);

Dominic, J. Capeci, Jr., From Different Liberal Perspectives: Fiorello La Guardia, Clayton Powell, Jr., and Civil Rights in New York City, 1941-1943, History, 62 (April 1977): 160-73;


Journal of Negro

Emmett Coleman [pseudo. of Ishmael Reed], ed. The Rise and Fall? of Adam Clayton Powell (New York: Bee-Line Books, 1967); Lenworth A. Gunther III, Flamin Tongue: The Rise of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. 19081941. Ph.D. Thesis, Columbia University, Department of History, 1985.

Charles V. Hamilton, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of An Dilemma (New York: Atheneum, 1991);


James Haskins, Adam Clayton Powell: Portrait of a Marching Black (New York: Dial

Press, 1974);

Wil Haygood, King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

(New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993);

Neil Hickey and Ed Edwin, Adam Clayton Powell and the Politics of Race (New

York: Fleet Publishing, 1965);

Robert E. Jacoubek, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (New York: Chelsea House, 1988);

Claude Lewis, Adam Clayton Powell (Greenwich, CT: Fawcett, 1963);

Lawrence J. McAndrews, The Rise and Fall of the Powell Amendment, Griot, 12

(Spring 1993): 52-64;

Kent M.Weeks, Adam Clayton Powell and the Supreme Court (New York:

Dunellen, 1971);

Papers: Powells papers reside at the Schomburg Library, New York City. Other collections with significant Powell material include the NAACP Papers, Library of Congress; the American Baptist Historical Society Papers, Rochester, New York; and the papers of various contemporaries in the Municipal Archives, New York, New York. Powells file in the Archives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation contains the best known collection of many of his periodical publications.