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Adam Clayton Powell Jr. -- Non-Communists are Forgotten

November 4, 2018

As Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., (1908-1972) US Rep from Harlem (1945-1971) single-handedly legislated the civil rights US Blacks enjoy today. 

For example, he made lynching a federal crime, raised the minimum wage, desegregated public schools, challenged the Southern practice of charging Blacks a poll tax to vote and stopped racist Congressmen from saying the word "nigger" in sessions of Congress. Although of mixed race, 6ft 4 and strikingly handsome, he could pass as white yet chose to identify as Black.  

Powell was the real saviour of US Blacks. Yet we hardly hear about him today. Why? As reader JG explains in First Comment, Powell wasn't a Communist like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. 
A non-Communist actually improves the lot of the people while a Communist exploits social divisions to gain power and loot the treasury.  



Here is an excellent article about a remarkable man flushed down the memory hole. 


I present this as a break from our political frenzy today, a reminder of the flow of time, and a homage to a politician inspired by Christ's teachings. 

I highly recommend the embedded documentary above as well as an exceptionally well-made and entertaining biopic, Keep the Faith Baby, which is available on YouTube. 



from March 22, 2011
by Tony Chapelle

As the first African-American congressman from the northeast, and for decades the only militant African American on the Hill, Adam Clayton Powell had the guts to push through laws that forced America to stop locking African Americans out of industries and institutions.

He didn't behave like most African-American politicians. "I'm the first bad Negro they've had in Congress," he bragged. He made more enemies on Capitol Hill than perhaps any legislator before or since.

He didn't behave like a typical African-American minister. "I believe only in the teaching of Jesus," he said, "I am not a full-Bible Christian."

And he felt this distinction gave him wide moral latitude. He openly drank alcohol, smoked, and had adulterous affairs. When he strode up the aisle of his packed church to preach, women parishioners later admitted to being distracted from thoughts of God by enrapture with the tall playboy- minister.

BACKGROUND

Powell was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1908. His father, who missed by one month being born into slavery, pastored the most prestigious African-American church in New York City, Abyssinian Baptist.

He stopped and started through a checkered college career, first attending City College of New York. Eventually, he flunked out. After that, Adam went into a serious party mode. These were the Roaring '20s. Harlem, with hundreds of speakeasies, rent parties, and dance halls, was a wild bachelor's paradise. The little money he made as a kitchen helper, he spent on gambling, women, and liquor.

senior.jpg(Powell Sr. Pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, the most prestigious Black church in NYC)

But Adam's father pushed him back into college, this time to almost all-white Colgate University in upstate New York. Young Powell began studies to become a surgeon 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.

Upon graduation, his parents gave him a present of a trip to Europe, the Holy Land, and Egypt. When he returned, he enrolled in Union Theological Seminary, then later in Columbia University Teachers' College, where he eventually took a master's degree in religious education.

While he worked on postgraduate studies, Powell helped thousands in his community to eat and find clothes and jobs. The Great Depression had America on the dole and in despair.

As assistant pastor under his father at Abyssinian, Powell helped operate a free food pantry, job referral service, and literacy classes. His compassion became legendary when it was rumoured that Adam once took the shoes from his own feet and gave them to a poor man for whom the church clothing bin had no proper sizes.

As he matured into adulthood, Powell began speaking out against the institutional racism ingrained in New York. In a short time, he racked up successes in getting jobs back for doctors, forcing bus companies to hire African-American drivers and mechanics, as well as squeezing white store owners with the "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" campaign.

"It's in your hand," he admonished his people. "Just like little David had those smooth stones and killed big Goliath with them. Use what you have right in your hand. That dollar...that ten cents. Use your vote. The Negro race has enough power right in our hands to accomplish anything we want to."

flo-powelldad.jpgPOLITICAL CAREER

In 1941, he became New York City's first African-American councilman. By 1944, he had won a seat in Congress. It was heady, but lonely as one of the only two African Americans in the U.S. House; particularly since the other, William Dawson of Chicago, was more seen than heard, careful to not upset the status quo.

 Even Democratic presidents Roosevelt and Truman, who owed African Americans for having voted for them, had to be dragged into issuing executive orders ending discrimination in military bases and war factories.

If his colleagues ignored him and voted down his proposals; if Truman, or Eisenhower, Kennedy, or Johnson wouldn't grant him a personal session to discuss civil rights or helping the poor, Powell made vicious public statements or sent embarrassing "open" telegrams to the press describing their insensitivity.

Ebony-Adam-clayton-powel-family.jpg(From 1945-60, Powell was married to Hazel Scott, one of the most famous & talented pianist/singers of her day.)

Powell perfected a role as agitator. "Whenever a person keeps prodding, keeps them squirming...it serves a purpose. It may not in contemporary history look so good, but...future historians will say, 'They served a purpose."'

He was African-American pride personified. He swaggered into the congressional dining room and barber shop Knowing full well that African Americans were not served there, and demanded service. He won it. He badgered racist congressmen and stopped their habit of saying the word "nigger" in sessions of Congress.

One of his most dangerous legislative weapons was the "Powell Amendment," a rider he tried to attach to any proposals for federal funds.

The beauty of the Amendment was that, if successfully attached to a bill, it would nullify federal grants to state or local governments if the agencies receiving the money discriminated. This meant, for example, that even school districts in the deepest South had to open their doors to African-American teachers and students or I risk losing funds set aside for them.

Voters from Harlem elected Powell as their representative nearly two dozen times. With long service in Congress comes seniority and ultimately the chance to head one of the powerful committees that draft bills that the full House and Senate eventually vote on. After the election of 1960, Powell took over as chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. In that role, he had more concrete power than any African- American man on the planet. His little club, as it were, could initiate proposals worth billions of dollars and decisions affecting millions of Americans, and hundreds of schools, labor unions, and employment practices.

Here was where Powell made his greatest contributions. He oversaw passage of the backbone of President Kennedy's "New Frontier" and President Johnson's "Great Society" social programs: A sweeping anti-poverty bill, an increased minimum wage, a National Defense Education Act that benefited generations of high school and college students.

keep-the-faith-full.jpgDARK SIDE?

Yet in the new book, Adam Clayton Powell Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma, Columbia University professor Charles V. Hamilton, an African American, courageously addresses old allegations that Powell misused his clout to clean up consequences of his personal excesses.

The extravagant New Yorker suffered more than a decade of court cases over tax fraud, and for taking kickbacks from employees who no longer worked for him. Hamilton presents evidence that Powell supported Republican president Dwight Eisenhower for re-election in 1956 in exchange for a promise that Ike would kill the investigation.

There is no denying, however, that despite his commitment to civil rights for his people, Adam Powell Jr. was no paragon of virtue. He was egocentric, self-indulgent, and often treacherous. To keep Martin Luther King Jr. From picketing at the Republican convention where Eisenhower was to be nominated, Powell threatened to publicly (and surely, falsely) announce that King was having a homosexual relationship with another civil rights activist, Bayard Rustin.

He had no permanent friends, only permanent interests. At some points, he aligned with traditional civil rights groups, then when it suited his purposes he'd accuse them of being made up of Uncle Toms not worthy of African Americans' support.

NYC-AdamClaytonPowell_Mon.jpg(Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Memorial in Harlem)

Ultimately, Powell used up his political currency. Members of the House, happy to find a reason to silence him, expelled him for pocketing congressional employment paychecks to his wife, and for taking junkets abroad with female staffers.

The fighter in him took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. He won back his seat. Even then, he was docked $25,000 to repay the illegal kickback. But the people of Harlem grew tired of Powell's unbelievable record of roll call absences and endless litigation. In 1970, they finally voted him out. Two years later, he died of prostate cancer at the age of 63.

CONCLUSION

Today, Powell isn't as ubiquitous a symbol of African-American determination as Malcolm X; you seldom find his likeness on t-shirts, or see film clips of his speeches within music videos.

Nor is his picture reverently displayed in magazine ads during Black History Month like Martin Luther King, Jr.'s. But African Americans with a knowledge of their history remember Powell as the risk taker who made it possible for later generations of African-American politicians such as Jesse Jackson, Rep. Ron Dellums, and Willie Brown of the California Assembly to stand unbowed in the arena of political horse trading.

And in Harlem, where a state office building and a broad boulevard are named for him, you can occasionally still visit an apartment home where his picture adorns a place of honor.

 
Tony Chapelle is a freelance writer in New York City.

source


First Comment from JG

You hear so little about the legacy of Adam Clayton Powell these days.  He doesn't even get the MSM hype that Rosa Parks still gets.
Why is this so? Because Powell wasn't a Communist pawn like Rosa Parks and some of the other civil rights leaders even though his contributions were more valuable and more in numbers.

The Black Christian leaders never get the credit or the hype by the MSM that the pro-Communist black leaders do. The MSM has had a Communist bias for years and that won't change until it's owners change and that probably won't happen anytime soon.

I think it would be hard to grow up being a biracial black like Powell was. You could experience racial rejection from both sides of your heritage. It's no surprise that some of the biracial leaders are the most vocal.

Richard Nixon said in his memoirs that he felt sad that LBJ never got the thanks for all the people he helped through his government initiatives that he deserved. The same could be said of Adam Clayton Powell. 



Scruples - the game of moral dillemas

Comments for "Adam Clayton Powell Jr. -- Non-Communists are Forgotten"

James C said (November 4, 2018):


James Calvert
7:03 AM (1 hour ago)
to [email protected]

Desegregation and integration are not biblical concepts. Neither are they in conformity with Christ's teachings. If you doubt these statements, get a red-letter bible (where the words spoken by Christ are printed in red) and read Mark 7:27 where Christ figuratively referred to Gentiles as dogs. Desegregation and integration are communist concepts, being pushed by the same people lobbying hard for mass importation of third world "refugees" into the West. The entire Bible teaches segregation of the races and nationalism. Invasion by foreigners was always a curse and a form of punishment for national apostasy. Read the book of Judges for examples of this statement. And this is exactly why we are witnessing mass immigration from the third world.


HB said (November 4, 2018):

Is this article a joke? Where is the 'good side' of this man? He is responsible for the disastrous socialist social programs of the 60s and you want to lionize him because he somehow generically was against racism? Who isn't? And he helped generations of students by leading the federal takeover of education? How has that worked out?

Take a look at Union Theology's record of promoting one world centralized religion, and Columbia's Teachers College's role in transforming education into a leftist cult, and tell me again with a straight face how this guy was ignored because he wasn't far enough on the left. A man's personal life cannot be separated from his political agenda. I strongly believe that someone with no personal morality should never be entrusted with political power. The habitual distinction now between public and private personas is why the US (and virtually all other countries on the planet in 2018) is led by a collection of sociopathic narcissists.

Forgotten hero? Give me a break. Just the prototype for generations of scumbag black conmen to screw the African-American community for their own power, philandering, and financial benefit.


GW said (November 4, 2018):

That's a very interesting article about Adam Clayton Powell. Especially > the headline atop the cover of 'Ebony' magazine from 1960, with the word "Negroes". As much as I know, is = the word "Negro" is very politically-incorrect today in public discourse. Which is why I use it on purpose, in conversation with my nephews, whose fathers are Black men. They smirk at me as just an old geezer so I get away with it

The libtards glorify the "I have a dream speech" by Martin Luther King Jr. But not one in a thousand could tell you that, in it, he uses the word "Negroes" a dozen times!


Patrick said (March 24, 2011):

Thanks for the great articles. Regarding the black leader, well, one of my favorite black commentators is the late
great George Schuyler. "The sage of Harlem" would put Rengel types to shame in todays world. His wit and wisdom
is from a long ago era. Please do look into the life of this great man!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Schuyler


http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5129/


http://www.answers.com/topic/philippa-schuyler- his daughter


Dick said (March 23, 2011):

Thanks to you and Mr. Chapelle for a very interesting, nuanced and
well-written portrait of Adam Clayton Powell. I also very much
liked Dan's comment.

I think this offers some needed perspective on how to look at
political figures. Who has done more good – "good guys" like Dennis
Kucinich who draw a clear moral position but have no power? Or
flawed characters like John F. Kennedy who summoned morality after
achieving power? (I personally think MLK, Jr. fits this mold).

We need both agitators and actors – Powell seems to have struck a
good balance of the two.


Dan said (March 23, 2011):

I remember Adam Clayton Powell very well. I commend Tony Chapelle for bringing this up. In the old days Harlem NY was the only Congressional district in America which could carry majority votes for a Black representative, so Powell was essentially the sole representative of African Americans on Capitol Hill. With due respect, Dr. King was an activist preacher whose contributions were rhetorical and whose fame was bestowed by liberal media for their own purposes.

Sure, Powell took personal advantage of politics, but show me one who didn't Washington DC is a Masonic capitol.

I think the reason Powell's been left out of the postmodernist version of American history is that he doesn't fit the profile designed by Howard Zinn. He's too real.


Henry Makow received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Toronto in 1982. He welcomes your comments at