100 Americans Making Constitutional History: A Biographical History presents 100 profiles of the key people behind some of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases. Edited by Melvin I. Urofsky, a respected constitutional historian, each 2,000-word profile delves into the social and political context behind landmark Court decisions. For example, while a case like Brown v. Board of Education is about an important idea—the equal protection of the law—at its heart it is the story of a little girl, Linda Brown, who wanted to go to a decent school near her home. The outcome is accessible and objective “stories” about the individuals—heroes and scoundrels—who fought their way to constitutional history.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

A Defiant and Flawed Hero

“Mr. Civil Rights”

Powell v. McCormack

395 U.S. 486 (1969)

The peaks of the roller-coaster life and career of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (1908–1972) reached to the highest levels of congressional power, and the valleys included public scandals and humiliation at the hands of his colleagues. Although a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court brought some measure of vindication for Powell, even the nation's most powerful judges could not restore much of what was taken from this proud political figure.

Shortly after Powell's birth on November 29, 1908, in New Haven, Connecticut, his father, the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, became the pastor at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City. The church was located at the time ...

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