Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was an African American Baptist pastor and politician who represented the Harlem neighborhood of New York City in the United States House of Representatives from 1945 until 1971. He was the first African-American to be elected to Congress from New York, as well as the first from any state in the Northeast. Re-elected for nearly three decades, Powell became a powerful national politician of the Democratic Party, and served as a national spokesman on civil rights and social issues. He also urged United States presidents to support emerging nations in Africa and Asia as they gained independence after colonialism.
In 1961, after 16 years in the House, Powell became chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, the most powerful position held by an African American in Congress. As chairman, he supported the passage of important social and civil rights legislation under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.