The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, March 25, 2005

Some words of wisdom from Adam Clayton Powell

I've been tinkering at the Powell amendment votes I discussed on March 17. However, since what appear at first to be stunning aperçus usually turn out to be spreadsheet error, I'll hold my fire on the subject for the moment.

As I mooch round the subject, however, a typically flamboyant quote from the man turns up in a teaser [1] from a Commentary article from January 1966:
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, colored men looking for loans, and whites who understand the Negro.

And a Nation archive teaser from September 1956 is piquant from two perspectives:

First, this from the abstract:
The heretofore muted voices of thousands of African Americans are going to find expression this November in the Northern cities of the U.S.

The anachronism of the present tense used with today's PC label (euphemism?) jars the sensibilities (it does mine, at least). I don't know when African-American was invented as a kow-tow term, but it certainly had little currency, even among Nation readers, in 1956!

Powell, the robust legislator, says [2] colored men; I suspect that, back in 1956, the Nation style-book would have specified Negro.

But, even writing (why?) in the present tense, as if contemporaneously with the original article, the author of the abstract can't bring himself to use either colored or Negro, the correct usage of the time.

Second, the article is about Powell's Negro colleague in the US House, William Dawson (IL):
grandson of a slave, he is now the vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee and of the Cook County Democratic Committee.

The title of the piece, Dawson of Illinois: What Price Moderation?, suggests disenchantment!

And unsurprisingly: Dawson opposed the Powell Amendment! (Though, after the amendment passed, he voted for the bill on passage.)

Dawson, to judge from a cursory search, is an interesting guy: well worth a second look, I think.

  1. The full article is pay-only.

  2. I have no date for the quote.


Dawson seems to have participated in the criminal connections enjoyed by the Cook County Democratic organisation: it's suggested, for instance, that Dawson ran the Negro neighbourhoods on behalf of Sam Giancana and the rest of mob.

And, the piece says,
In 1948 Dawson was charged with defending racketeers by Congressional committee to which Dawson replied that he would defend any man of anything, anywhere. Mobster or otherwise.

Needs checking, obviously.

There is what looks like an excellent article The Black Mafia: African-American organized crime in Chicago 1890–1960 namechecks Dawson a dozen times.

On Dawson's methods of controlling the vote in his areas, there is this - for what it's worth.

This page Race and Politics, 1940 to 1959 is part of a Roosevelt University history of Chicago that looks worth having. A suitably sardonic tone is adopted. For instance (emphasis mine),
The county elections of 1950 went badly for the Chicago organization. The slating of Captain Daniel Gilbert, reportedly the richest police captain of all time, for sheriff dismayed many voters. Gilbert as chief investigator of the state attorney's staff, had openly consorted with underworld figures; during his twenty years in office not one of the 188 gangland slayings had been solved. Over 1,000 other murders in the county remained unsolved. Gilbert received only 44% of the votes and became the first Democrat to lose the city since 1928.

That, mark you, is the party that's bellyaching about Tom DeLay!

There are various reviews of Cohen and Taylor's Richard Daley bio American Pharoah - this and this from the New Republic. There was an organised author/reviewer artillery duel in Slate.


Reading the Black Mafia piece, I come across (p4a):
the First Ward political machine of “Bathhouse” John Coughlin and “Hanky Dink” Mike Kenna

Oh dear. It's Hinky Dink, of course. Distinctive, I'd have thought. Perhaps not...

(And, under the heading of spooky coincidence, the piece namechecks (p6a) a pair of Chicago brothel-keepers, the Everleigh sisters - Minna and Ada. Surely, I wondered, a certain duo of clean-cut boys could not have been given an ironic stage-name in memory of this wicked ladies?

No. Don and Phil Everly are birth names. Phew!)

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