The Force That Could Not Be Stopped

The way Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. approached civil rights was not passive – it was in your face, give no “Fs” style as might be said today. He made some enemies but also got a lot done. In telling the story of Congress’s seating powers we tell two stories. One is his.

The other is of Emerson Etheridge, the Clerk of the House who during the Civil War attempted to use his powers to take over the House for him and his more conservative Unionist party and to steer policy away from Lincoln administration policy. It almost worked, was it not for a timely tip-off and quick thinking from Lincoln himself. Also the story of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. whose flamboyant style as well as lingering scandals saw him not seated for Congress – until he took his case to the Supreme Court.

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