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Main > Politics & Religion > Adam C. Powell Jr.

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 & school lunches.

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.

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