1955 June 23

Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Rebuffs President Eisenhower Over Segregated National Guard


Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, Democrat from Harlem, an African-American, and the most vigorous civil rights supporter in Congress at the time, rebuffed a plea from President Dwight D. Eisenhower on this day over funds to expand the National Guard. Powell had offered an amendment to a bill that would expand the National Guard. His amendment would deny federal funds to states whose National Guard was racially segregated, which threatened to block the Guard bill altogether. In a letter, President Eisenhower warned that not passing the bill would threaten national security. Powell replied at a news conference that the president’s letter had made him only more determined to press for the anti-segregation amendment. In the end, the bill passed without Powell’s amendment. National Guard Units were not fully integrated until passage of the 1964 Civil Right Act. The U.S. Army Reserves were integrated earlier, on April 3, 1962.

During the 1940s and 1950s, when Congress considered bills to provide federal aid to public schools, Powell offered amendments that would bar funds to segregated schools. The “Powell Amendment” blocked federal aid for schools until 1965. See, for example, February 16, 1956.

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

Learn more about Powell: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/powell-adam-clayton-jr-1908-1972

Learn more: Martha Derthick, The National Guard in Politics (1965)

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