Books by Charles V. Hamilton

Released: Sept. 1, 1991

The first full-length biography—and likely the authoritative one for years to come—of the flamboyant black congressman who, as civil-rights gadfly and as libertine, exemplified the gap between our nation's ideals and practices that was given a name in Gunnar Myrdal's ``American Dilemma.'' Blessed with good looks, eloquence, and a bully pulpit (he succeeded his father as head of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, the nation's largest black congregation), Powell became ``Mr. Civil Rights'' in the pre-King era by combining agitation and electoral politics. As congressman from Harlem, Powell denounced racist southern colleagues and introduced the ``Powell Amendment'' to deny federal funds to projects or organizations that practiced discrimination. In 1960, he became chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, then the strongest position ever held by a black in the US government. Columbia Univ. political-science professor Hamilton (The Bench and the Ballot, 1973; The Black Preacher in America, 1972; Black Power, with Stokely Carmichael, not reviewed) also highlights how the Democratic politician became a thorn in the side of ally and foe alike. Powell was a maverick seldom bound by party (he endorsed Eisenhower for President), duty (a high absentee rate), or conventional morality. Inevitably, after an income-tax evasion trial, a suit filed by a Harlem resident he called a ``bag woman,'' and a European junket with two attractive female aides, Powell was stripped of his chairmanship by the House of Representatives despite his cry of double standards for white counterparts. Blending scholarship and ironic detachment, an admirably balanced treatment of a politician who provoked anything but objectivity during his Marion Barry-like career. (Thirty-five b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >