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PHOTO ESSAY

Blacks in Politics, Part 2

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Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was one of the most influential African American politicians of the mid-twentieth century. In 1941 Powell became the first African American elected to the New York City Council and in 1945 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the Twenty-second Congressional District, the district that encompassed Harlem. As a congressman Powell helped desegregate the public transit system in New York, worked to end the unfair poll taxes aimed at African Americans to discourage them from voting, and was instrumental in making lynching a federal crime. During the 1960s Powell chaired the Education and Labor Committee, the first time an African American had chaired such a powerful committee. In his time in the House, Powell helped guide over sixty major bills into law, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Powell's successful political career was hampered by scandal and eventually came to a close in the late 1960s as a result of public criticism for misconduct.

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