ADAM CLAYTON POWELL, JR.
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was a leading political activist for African Americans and served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for New York for 12 terms. He was the first African American Congressman for New York, and he was dedicated to helping African Americans obtain equality through legislative changes. He was also a minister in the Abyssinian Church and supported positive change for the African American community.
Powell pursued a Masters in religious education at Columbia University in 1930. Early in his ministry and business career, Powell began his journey as a social activist to make changes for the African American community in Harlem. Powell helped organize large meetings, began relief programs, and even campaigned for African American workers during the Great Depression. From 1941 to 1945, Powell wrote, edited, and published "The People’s Voice," a newspaper highlighting civil rights issues that drew national attention for Powell’s outspoken views on racism.
In Congress, Powell wrote legislation to deny federal funding to programs that maintained segregation (known as the “Powell Amendments”). This principle for justice in federal programs was written into the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the law that radically changed civil rights in America.
Due to his aggressive style, Powell was a controversial figure in Congress. Later in his career, Powell was accused of misusing finances, and he was removed from office. However, Powell won his case in the U.S. Supreme Court to retain his congressional seat and was re-elected for one final term.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Powell’s influential career was grounded in his work within the church. He utilized his pastoral position to fight for racial minorities. After being ordained, Powell joined his father in preaching and charity in his community, gaining first-hand insights to the issues and concerns of African Americans. He believed that God called him to do this great work, and even in his dispute and removal from Congress, he famously said, “Keep the faith, baby!”