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

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Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., was one of the most brilliant, charismatic, and controversial politicians of this century - and one of the most productive legislators in American history. This vivid and penetrating biography by Wil Haygood, whom Ward Just has praised as "perhaps America's best young reporter," evokes the physical, political, and racial reality of both Powell's life and the civil rights struggle of the twentieth century. The grandson of a slave, Powell utilized his father's pulpit in Harlem's Abyssinian...
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1993 Hard cover NEW. Hardcover edition. ISBN 0395440947 New in new dust jacket. NEW. Hardcover edition. ISBN 0395440947 NEW. Hardcover edition. ISBN 0395440947 NEW. Hardcover ... edition. ISBN 0395440947 Read more Show Less

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1993 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Paper over boards. 476 p. Audience: General/trade.

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Overview

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., was one of the most brilliant, charismatic, and controversial politicians of this century - and one of the most productive legislators in American history. This vivid and penetrating biography by Wil Haygood, whom Ward Just has praised as "perhaps America's best young reporter," evokes the physical, political, and racial reality of both Powell's life and the civil rights struggle of the twentieth century. The grandson of a slave, Powell utilized his father's pulpit in Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church to raise up the poor and disadvantaged during the Great Depression. After marrying a showgirl, starting his own newspaper, and successfully running for city council, he was elected as the first black congressman from Harlem, a seat he held without serious opposition for thirty-odd years. He took his second wife, the jazz pianist Hazel Scott, with him to Washington, where he was a tireless crusader for racial equality, a thorn in the side of his timid colleagues, and an embarrassment to four presidents on the issue of fair employment. Though Powell jumped the Democratic fence in 1956 because of Adlai Stevenson's racial indecisiveness and appointed himself unofficial ambassador to the Bandung conference, he finally assumed real power under Lyndon Johnson. As the chairman of the Education and Labor Committee of the House, the black representative helped the white president push through that mass of laws which Johnson called the War on Poverty. At the same time, Powell's influence was being eroded by his flamboyant private life and by his reckless disregard for congressional proprieties. His pleasurable rambles around the world, compounded by headline-making lawsuits, cost him his seat in Congress. Though his faithful Harlemites reelected him, he was not reseated until the Supreme Court backed him, in Earl Warren's last decision. Stripped of seniority, Powell toured the country to advocate black power and lolled on his yacht in the Bahamas u
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Boston Globe reporter Haygood ( Two on the River ) weaves together interviews and research to create a nuanced yet vivid narrative about the crusading Harlem congressman who served in the House for 24 years and whose controversial behavior and womanizing often overshadowed his crucial contribution to the War on Poverty. Haygood astutely traces how the light-skinned Powell (1908-1972), who tried to pass as white when a Colgate student, later embraced his blackness and demanded acceptance in the white world. Mixing New York and national political history with Powell's rise as a Baptist minister and politician, Haygood adds deft cameos of characters like Hattie Dodson, Powell's devoted secretary, and Hazel Scott, the jazz star whose wedding to the divorced congressman was ``the stuff of grand romance and intrigue.'' Expelled from Congress in 1966 for alleged misappropriations and an unpaid libel judgment, Powell, Haygood writes poignantly, was shunned by black leaders and, even after reinstatement by the Supreme Court, disparaged by many he had helped. Though less authoritative in assessing Powell's political milieu than Charles V. Hamilton's 1991 book, Adam Clayton Powell Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma , this is a richer portrait of Powell the man. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Born to a legacy of elite black Baptist ministry, Powell (1908-72) stood as the New Negro whose triumphs over racial discrimination moved some to call him ``Mr. Civil Rights.'' To others, the longtime Harlem congressman was either a prodigal son or merely unpredictable, intemperate, enigmatic, and dangerous. Boston Globe writer Haygood offers a full story, exposing the man and the myth in classic life-and-times fashion. His pages vibrate with the living color of top reporting as he digs out characters and connections to explain what was happening personally and politically with Powell. Charles Hamilton's Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma ( LJ 7/91) caught the man's place in U.S. political theory. Haygood has captured the man and his place in American life. Highly recommended for collections on biography, civil rights, or local and national politics. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/92.-- Thomas J. Davis, Univ. at Buffalo, N.Y.
Gilbert Taylor
Since his death in 1972, the late minister of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem has been memorialized by a street name, an ugly New York State office building, and now by this full-blown biography. It pleasantly contrasts with "Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma" by Charles Hamilton . While Hamilton, a trained historian, addressed his meticulously footnoted account as much to his professional peers as to the masses, Haygood plays to most readers' desires to "feel" what the man was about. An example is his account of Powell's attempt, early in college, to pass as white; the discovery that he could not was a "galvanizing moment" that affected his relations with people and politics for the rest of his life. Powell's life was imbued with clever self-confidence, a fascinating blend of the rambunctious, the righteous, the egotistical, the reckless, and the salacious. An ambitious, sometimes inflammatory orator, Powell's total, unbending independence--from white liberals, the southern civil rights leaders--inspired his constituents to repeatedly elect him, the only black representative for many years, to Congress. There his own foibles ultimately felled him; he retired to Bimini, a cinder of his former fiery self. Assembled in masterly fashion, and peopled by uncannily acute character sketches, Haygood's work is an exemplary narrative. Heavy demand is certain.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395440940
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 12/21/1992
  • Pages: 448

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Illustrations
Prologue: The Young Thinkers 1
I Colgate, 1926-1930 7
II Young Adam Powell, 1930-1945 21
Interlude: Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. 58
The Succession 72
III The Rise of a Phoenix, 1945-1952 107
IV Shifting Ground, 1953-1957 177
V The Glory, 1957-1963 235
VI And the Power, 1964-1966 297
VII The Fall, 1967-1968 335
VIII Redemption by the Constitution, 1969-1972 379
Epilogue 417
Notes 423
Bibliography 442
Index 447
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2000

    A Kingly Portrail

    Outstanding. An accurate and honest picture of an American Hero. Fans of history and culture will all appreciate this book. A biography that casts a spotlight on an often overlooked great American.

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