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Two Black Men Named Powell Who Crossed Party Lines On Presidential Endorsements

Former General and Secretary of State Colin Powell (above), a Republican, has endorsed Barack Obama for President.

General Powell is not the first well-known black man named Powell to cross party lines with a Presidential endorsement.

In 1956 Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a Democrat, endorsed President Dwight Eisenhower over Democratic challenger Adlai Stevenson. (The first link in the sentence is to a good essay on the A.C. Powell endorsement. It provides a sense of Mr. Powell and some context for his endorsement of Eisenhower.)

This is the Texas Liberal Election Fact of the Day.

A strong book about Adam Clayton Powell (below) is Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma by Charles V. Hamilton.

Governor Stevenson, despite a reputation as a so-called liberal, had a poor record on Civil Rights. Mr. Stevenson had the support of many in the Dixiecrat wing of the Democratic Party, and often seemed more concerned with that support instead of making progress on issues of racial justice.

A good book about the silence on questions of Civil Rights by many leading political and literary figures of the mid-20th century, is Divided Minds by Indiana University professor Carol Polsgrove.

Adam Clayton Powell is a figure worth study. He was a strong advocate for Civil Rights and a greatly flawed figure at the same time. He had both legislative success and an inability to keep himself out of trouble. Few people could be both so right and so wrong at one time.

Mr. Powell served in Congress 1945-1971. Seemingly past his day, he was defeated in the 1970 Democratic primary by Charles Rangel. Mr. Rangel still serves in Congress and has had some problems of his own in recent months.

October 19, 2008 Posted by | Books, Campaign 2008, Election Fact Of The Day, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Senator Clinton’s Comments Seek To Diminish M.L. King & The Civil Rights Movement

Senator Hillary Clinton made comments in New Hampshire last week that sought to diminish the role of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement.

(Please click here for a Texas Liberal Martin Luther King Reading and Reference List. It is the best list of its kind on the web.)

Mrs Clinton said—“Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a President to get it done.” 

Mrs. Clinton’s comments were part of her effort since the Iowa caucus to belittle the optimism felt by many over the campaign of Senator Barack Obama.    

Along these lines, former President Bill Clinton described the Obama theme of hope as a “fairy tale.

It’s no surprise that the Clintons would play down the work done by the Civil Rights movement and the idea that we can do more than settle for the least bad option.

Clintonism has always been about settling for the least bad option in a conservative era.

Now that the conservative era may be coming to an end, what strategy is left but to ridicule the idea that people believing in anything more than the imagination-killing pragmatism of centrist politics can make America better?  

For the record, Mrs. Clinton’s reading of history is simply wrong. As well-detailed in Carol Polsgrove’s Divided Minds–Intellectuals and the Civil Rights Movement and David L. Chappell’s excellent  A Stone of Hope—Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow, many white liberals and white intellectuals were  slow to embrace the cause of Civil Rights.

From Stone of Hope—“It is hard to sort out whether liberals cared a great deal about racism, but lacked the power to challenge it, or simply cared too little about racism, until black voters and protesters forced their hand…in the 1960’s.”  

While many whites did take personal and political risks to aid the cause of Civil Rights, if Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement had waited for someone other than themselves to bring about freedom, they might well still be waiting.  

And if in 2008 we look to Hillary Clinton to inspire us beyond the mess we find ourselves in today, we will also have a very long wait.

January 11, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, History, Martin & Malcolm, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments