Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Powell moved to New York City
where his father administered the Abyssinian Baptist Church. After
attending public schools, he graduated from Colgate University and
received his M. A. in religious education from Columbia University.
During the Depression, while handling business affairs at his
fathers' church, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., established himself as a
charismatic and successful civil rights leader.
He was elected to Congress in 1945, serving on the Indian
Affairs, Invalid Pensions and Labor Committees. Soon after his
arrival in Washington D. C. he challenged the informal regulations
forbidding black representatives from using Capitol facilities
reserved for members only.
On the house floor, he clashed immediately with one of the
chambers most notorious segregationist, John E. Rankin of
Mississippi. Powell attached an anti-discrimination clause to so
many pieces of legislation that the rider became known as the
Powell Amendment. In 1955, he attended the landmark Bandung
Conference of African and Asian nations, returning to urge the
Eisenhower administration to pay attention to the emerging third
world. The early 60s were productive years for his congressional
career. The committee approved over fifty measures authorizing
federal programs for areas from minimum wage increases &
education & training for the deaf, too student loans &
Powell Jr. had extraordinary local support from Harlem residents
to the very end of his controversial career. Adam Clayton Powell
Jr., unsuccessfully sought re-nomination in 1970, then retired as a
minister and died in 1972.