Keep the Faith, Baby (2002) TV

 

 

Director:  Doug McHenry. 

Starring:  Harry J. Lennix (Adam Clayton Powell Jr.), Vanessa L. Williams (Hazel Scott), Don Allison (President Lyndon B. Johnson), Rodger Barton (John Rankin), Richard Blackburn (Congressman Devine), Kedar Brown (Randolphe Aide), J. Winston Carroll (Congressman Van Deerlin), Linda Carter (Mattie Powell), David Clement (Congressman Hall), Michael Copeman (Congressman Morris Udall), Jim Cordington (Congressman John Coyer Jr.), Rufus Crawford (Asa Phillip Randolph), Paul De La Rosa (Elevator Operator), Andrea Garnett (Gwen Jones), Naomi Gaskin (Isabel Powell), Trevor Gray (Skipper Powell), Lisa Heyden (Member of Congress #3), Brian Hill (Robert F. Kennedy), Russell Hornsby (Joe Schiller), Brian Kaulback (Reporter #4), John F. Kennedy (Himself, archive footage), Geza Kovacs (Politico), Colm Magner (Mike Quill), Donald Marshall (Waiter), Larry Marshall (Adam Clayton Powell, Sr.), Sean McCann (John McCormack), Joseph McCarthy (Himself, archive footage), John Nelles (Congressman Gross), Allan Price (Reporter #1), Pat Profito (Mayor LaGardia), Jim Ramney (Suit #1), Lance Reddick (Jay Raymond Jones), Karen Robinson (Hattie Dodson), Hadley Sandiford (Shackelford), Cliff Saunders (O'Malley), Julian Sedgwick (Suit #2), Mark Shultz (FBI Agent), Cedric Smith (U.S. President Truman), Aron Tager (Chairman Emanuel Celler), Ian Thurbide (Member of Congress #2), Robin Ward (Lester Wolff), Bazil Williams (Limo Driver).

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. pushes integration in New York State and elsewhere

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was laid to rest today.  The services were held at his own Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.  As chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, Congressman Powell, became the most powerful black elected official in United States history.  He was 63 years old. 

A reporter says he never finished Powell's story while he was alive.  The man was complex.  And now that Powell is dead, he doesn't want to get the story wrong.

In Congress, the gentleman from California says it his responsibility to make a motion that Congressman Powell not be sworn in as this time as a member of this. the 90th Congress.  He wants a committee to determine how Mr. Powell should be dealt with.  And he wants to find a more permanent solution to the Powell matter. 

The ruling is that Powell be excluded from his seat in this house until such time as the bipartisan sub-committee delivers its report.  Adam says:  "Sons of bitches.  They really did it."  He turns and leaves.  He tells the reporters that Congress threw the constitution away on Adam Clayton Powell today.  "I had too much power for a Negro", he says  They stole away his committee leadership position he had worked so hard for and now they have kicked him out of congress itself. 

He speaks to his congregation and they agree with him that they railroaded him out of his position.  He mentions to the congregation that there are still places we can't go to sit down and have a cup of coffee. 

I want my seat pack, baby, says Adam. You are not being kicked out, just temporarily excluded says Mr. McCormack.  Adam says"  "Don't patronize me."

Flashback.  June 8, 1969.   The reporter Joe Schiller goes down to Bimini Island.  They called it Adam's island because he went down there so often.  Powell was smart and slick and liked the finer things of life.  The reporter knocks on the door.  No one seems to be home.  He looks around the place.  Scotch is on the table with three glasses at the ready.  So the reporter takes a drink.  Powell comes in later and says to the reporter:  "Mister, what are you doing in my house?"  Holds a gun on the reporter.  Schiller says he communicated to Powell.  Powell says:  "Did I tell you you could take over my house?"  The reporter apologizes to Powell, who now relaxes.

The reporter says that Adam organized protests and boycotts in New York City.  He asks him:  "Why did you leave the church for politics?"  Powel emphatically denies that he ever left the church.  He is still a pastor, he says.

Flashback to scenes from Harlem, Manhattan, New York City.  The sheriff and his men going to break the door of a tenant that has not paid his full rent.  Powell wants to talk to the landlord O'Malley.  O'Malley agrees.  He tells O'Malley to be reasonable or all colored rent will stop.  He's already done it all over Harlem.  He will give the landlord half the rent in return for fixing the problems in the building.  Meanwhile they will negotiate fair rents across the board.  He tells  the landlord that  God will look kindly on him, if he is reasonable.  The first thing to do is fix tenant Shackelford's door.  Powell tells the man and the blacks in the hall watching that they should all be in church this coming Sunday. 

From the pulpit he introduces his father and mother and his lovely wife Isabel.   Mayor LaGuardia is here today.  And so are his associates.  The message today is sharing the wealth.  LaGuardia and his men are none too pleased with this message.  They offer Adam a bribe to bring in the black vote for them.  Adam gives it to his church and then offers a toast to sharing the wealth.  Meanwhile, Powell loves to travel first-class. 

Powell goes to talk with Mr. Quill who says that a lot of his people ride the city buses that his union men are striking against.  Powell observes that out of a work force of 3,202 members, only 14 of them are Negroes and they are also low-enders.  Powell says if they are to help Quill's people, the people of Harlem will want to see some black faces in the driver seats.  Quill says he will think about it. 

Adam's father criticizes him.  Adam says he has gotten results for the Negroes and maintains that a new day calls for new strategies.  Don't get involved in white people's labor problems, says his father.  He goes on to says it's the church or it's politics.  He says by fighting on two front, Adam may just lose the war. 

Miss Scott sees Powell speaking on the streets telling his people not to ride the buses.  Powell comes over to her car.  Can we get through? asks Scott.  Can you clear a path for us?  Adam says maybe he should make her picket with them for awhile.  But instead he tells his people to open up a path for Miss Hazel Scott.  He opens the path and the car proceeds on.

And now it's Powell for City Council. 

Adam likes to eat at fancy restaurants.  At one of them Hazel Scott plays the piano.  Then she starts playing jazz for the crowd which makes the patrons very happy.  He goes over to see her at the bar.  He is now New York's first City Council member.  She calls him a hoot and a scoundrel. 

Powell talks with the reporter.  When did Adam decide to go for the new Congressional District for Harlem?  After all, many thought A. Philip Randolph deserved the seat.  Some people say you Adam stole the election from him.  LaGuardia honors A. Philip Randolph, the founder and president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.  They try to stop Adam from speaking first, but he insists on going out first and does so.  He shouts out in support of  the effectiveness of Negro protests.  He says his efforts have desegregated all the stores on 125th Street in Harlem.  It is now time for the first Negro congressman for New York!  The crowd goes wild.  Powell says he is running for the congress of the United States of America so that we may have a national voice speaking from your national capital.  He will be a militant, anti-Uncle Tom congressman.  Randolph's people are upset at this brazen take-over of the stage. 

Hazel asks:  "What do you want Mr. Powell?"  He answers:  "A better world for all."

Adam says he won't put up Schiller for the night.

Hazel tells Adam that she wants what she has plus a family.  She keeps reminding him he is married.  Adam says he does feel guilty for breaking up with Isabel.  She got a raw deal.  What he told Isabel was that she was ahead of him, but now he has caught up with her and he is moving into the big time of politics.  He goes to a rally for his election. 

Adam marries Hazel.  He says he got married out of town in the quiet.  He was elected by Harlem but represented every black person in Congress.  He is swamped by letters from all over the country.  He says everyone knows there's a bad Negro now in Congress.  But he gets no respect from the congressman from the South.  Senator Rankin of Mississippi asks another white congressman if he has seen that new Negro congressman from the north?  He thinks he's going to change things around here.  Congressman Rankin says it's a damn disgrace Powell got elected.  You better watch yourself, he tells Adam.   Southern rules govern this city, he says.

His secretary is Hattie.  He tells her that he wants to be confrontational.  When he goes to the congressional eating place, he barges past the objections to take a table.  Hattie feels very uncomfortable sitting with all those disapproving congressmen.  Congressman Rankin gets up.  The other Negroes aren't allowed to eat here, Adam tells Rankin, but things will be changed.  Congressman Rankin leaves the restaurant and others go with him, but Adam stays put.

Adam works late into the night.  Hazel comes to see him in a gorgeous dress.  He forgot their dinner date.  She tells him not to do it again.

With the reporter, Adam says that Hazel hated politics more than Isabel, but she was a natural activist.  He adds and the least tolerant.  She is west Indian and sensitive to slights.  They come from a place where being black is the rule, not the exception.  Did this cause you problems? asks the reporter.   Adam says he loved her for it.  She was almost as bold as he was. 

Hazel is mad at him.   Is this about Constitution Hal?  She asks how die he know?  She was not allowed in to perform.  Adam says they did that to Marian Anderson five years ago.  He knew it and used her.  He knew she would be turned down.  Hazel cries and says don't touch me.  Adam says he's sorry, please forgive me.  She tells him to never do that to her again.

Adam talks with President Truman of the US.  The President says that this Powell Amendment will mean nothing but trouble.  It says that any money collected from the people should not be used to support any group that discriminates.  Truman says:  "You sir, are playing politics.  You set this all up to cause trouble.  You're as stubborn as I've heard say."  Harry says , thank you for the visit Congressman Powell.  Thank you, Mr. President, says Powell.  Truman won't shake his hand.  Hazel asks if he got an apology?  No.  But the president did say that his wife Bess bears no ill will toward you.  And no , Truman didn't say he was sorry. 

Adam tells Hazel that in congress he's going to shove the rules down their throats until they change them.  I'm going to die trying, he maintains.  She is pregnant.  Are you sure?  Positive?  Yes.  He says that's wonderful news.

Powell sits behind Congressman Rankin, so the southerner moves.  Powell moves and sits behind him again.  Rankin moves again.  Powell follows him.  Everyone starts watching this farce.  People start laughing about Adam mimicking the congressman.  In disgust Rankin leaves the floor. 

The Rosenbergs are executed for espionage.  McCarthy is on a roll.  Says there are communists in the military. Pres. Eisenhower leads the first Republican administration in 24 years.  Segregation dominates in the south.  Integration starts.  Trouble in Selma, Alabama. 

Powell changes his mind and invites Schiller to stay with him.  That medallion the reporter admires was a gift from Haile Selassie of Egypt.  The man gave it to Adam when he visited him at the Abyssinian Baptist Church.  His greatest accomplishment was his two sons.  He] also had a sister Blanche who was the light of his formative years.  She died when je was 17 years old.

His greatest political accomplishment was that he survived for so long in congress.  From the congress floor, he complains about organized crime and the New York City Police Department working together to discriminate against the Negro numbers business in Harlem.  The police are helping the Mafia take out any black competition.  Hazel gets a threatening call about this matter from a mobster.  The message is to tell Adam to keep his nose out of the numbers racket in Harlem.  She tells Adam that she is scared and wants to go off for awhile.  Adam says that he won't run.

The controversial congressman will talk about Mafia and the New York City police department.  Esther James is the bagwoman delivering mob pay offs to the police, says Powell.  He gets  sued because of what he said by Ms. James.  Hazel Scott goes to Paris with her child.  Thank you, Hazel, for everything. Adam says..  I'm going to miss you lady, miss you bad.  She hopes he gets what he wants, before they get him.  Adam then hugs his kid goodbye. 

With the reporter, Adam says that he supported Kennedy.  Yes, he even worked for him.  He speaks of what happened in those days.  Speaker Sam Rayburn says Lyndon Baines Johnson is the man to beat.  Adam says he wants the chairmanship of the Educational and Labor Committee if he is to support Johnson.  It's a deal. 

Powell says he was for JFK against Nixon.  Powell remained independent.  Bobby Kennedy comes to see him.  Bobby asks why did he tell the black delegation not to support Kennedy at the convention?.  Because your brother has a lousy record on civil rights, says Powell.  He says he wants the chairmanship and a change in their stance to civil rights.  Bobby Kenned says that JFK will be al lot better for the Negroes than Nixon. 

Who is this Martin Luther King, Jr.?  He's trying to take my job! says Powell.  He calls MLK, Jr. a bush-whacker and an amateur.  If he doesn't call it off, he will spread the rumor that Bayard Rustin, his chief aide, and Martin are having a homosexual affair.  Ray Jones says that he can't do that. 

Powell says he was a power house on his committee.  In one 14 month period he was responsible for the passage of 14 bills.  He even took his committee to Harlem. 

Half a million people join in on the arch on Washington.  Powell is not happy.  He asks about King:  Can he turn his dream into a reality?  Ray Jones says maybe they should have stayed in the stands.  That ought to be my show! responds Adam  He says:  "My speech would be 'I have a Plan.'"  Furthermore, King is a pacifist -- let's white folks slap him around. 

JFK and he became very close.  He kept his word to Powell.  Adam had full access to the White House at that time.  He say that Kennedy had the milk of human kindness is his veins.  About LBJ, he says Johnson was a skilled ally.  Johnson praised Powell's work on his committee, passing 49 bills.  He says:  I am truly grateful, signed, Lyndon B. Johnson. 

His enemies came after him.  They attack him on his frequent stays in Bimini.  His congressional enemies on the senate committee even brought in his third wife Yvette in front of them.  Hazel spoke up for her ex-husband saying he has been charge with common occurrences in congress.  A reporters asks if they will ever get back together?   Hazel responds:  "We are friends, but will never get back together again." 

J. Raymond Jones tells Adam that every black leader is trying to help him, but he won't help yourself.  You have written a great speech, diplomatic in tone.  If he doesn't present this speech, a hundred years from now no one will know who he was.  Jones advises:  "Don't you give your speech on the basis of righteous indignation."  The committee returns with the advise to seat Powell, but censor him.  Powell comes forward to present his speech.  He tears it up.  He gets a smattering of applause.  It is a very short indignant speech.   The comments from the floor include "Unbelievable arrogance" and "No apologies."   The votes was 240 to 176.  Adam is excluded from the 90th Congress. 

What are you going to do?  asks his secretary of Adam.  Take it to the Supreme Court, he says.  And he will run for the election in Harlem. 

The reporter says Powell did do the bad things they said, even if others did them too. He is of the opinion that Powell has to have to hold himself to a higher standard.  His plane leaves at noon tomorrow. 

The Supreme Court ruled.  Adam won.  Reporters come around to get his reaction.  What's your reaction? they shout.  Powell says he was vindicated and that it proves there is still justice in the United States.  Any ill feelings?  ask the reporters.  No, life is too short for that, says Adam.  The reporter comments that this was the last time he ever saw Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. 

Looking back Schiller says:  "I saw a great man dying and didn't even know it."   He was reelected and served again in Congress.   But he never got back his seniority, his money nor his chairmanship.  And on the night after he died, someone ransacked his home and got the textbook he was working on, his journals, his writings and his medallion form Haile Selassi.

 

Good movie.  Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., was a very important civil rights leader.  Therefore, he became a target for the racists in Congress.  He certainly was no saint, but neither was Martin Luther King, Jr.  Being a civil rights leader often makes the person a target, as their opponents look for anything that will shut them up.  So in a sense Powell's story is a tragedy.  But in the end the racists were not able to stop the movement.  I can remember the time when Cassius Clay (later Mohammed Ali) was a much maligned boxer because of his being an outspoken champion of blacks.  I also remember how I didn't dare speak out for him in my father's house, but I was just absolutely thrilled when he defeated Sonny Liston.  I could never have said it then, but much of the opposition to that "loud-mouth" Clay was definitely racist in nature.  No one would be so upset against a man as they were against Clay, without being a racist.  What wouldn't they have done to Mohammed Ali, if they had the chance or the power to harm him.  The Supreme Court came to the rescue for Powell and Ali, but both men were harmed by the attacks on them and the subsequent punishments handed out to them. 

Harry J. Lennix was very good as Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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