Knocking on Harlem’s Door

July 24, 2010  |  

(New York Magazine) — The end of an era has been declared repeatedly ever since the death, in December, of Harlem political patriarch Percy Sutton and the political demise of Governor Paterson this winter. Yet the more accurate, and complex, tale is an unfinished one. It starts in 1944, when a brilliant, singular personality, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., became the first person elected to represent a congressional district created to empower central Harlem. By 1970, Powell was sick with cancer and brooding on a Caribbean island, and was knocked off by Charlie Rangel, who has become the consummate Washington insider, steering tens of millions of dollars to the district and making Harlem a force in city elections. Now, though, in an echo of the financial and legal messes that brought down Powell, an ethics investigation has forced Rangel to give up his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee; last week, a congressional panel accused him of multiple ethics violations.

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