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

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

by Wil Haygood

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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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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
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Meet the Author

A Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow and a writer for the Washington Post, Wil Haygood has been described as a cultural historian. He is the author of a trio of iconic biographies. His King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., told the story of the enigmatic New York congressman and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

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