1955 November 17

Civil Rights Bloc Formed in Congress


Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Democrat from Harlem and the leading African-American in Congress, on this day announced the formation of an “organized civil right bloc” in Congress. The event marked the beginning of a civil rights caucus that eventually led to the formal organization of the Congressional Black Caucus, on March 30, 1971. Civil rights groups had already organized the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, on January 8, 1950, to lobby for civil rights legislation. Rep. Powell’s move was prompted by the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision on May 17, 1954.

Rep. Powell played a major role in blocking federal aid to education legislation in the 1950s. His “Powell Amendment” would have denied federal aid to school districts that were racially segregated (see February 16, 1956). He also offered an amendment that threatened to block a significant expansion of the National Guard by denying federal funds to segregated state Guard units (June 23, 1955). He was not successful on that issue, however.

Learn more about Powell: Wil Haygood, King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1993)

Watch a documentary on Powell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XJAUVwm92Q

Visit the web site of today’s Congressional Black Caucus here.

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