The Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Memorial
This 11-foot bronze sculpture of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. — a dynamic pastor, civil rights activist, legislator and Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee—strides purposefully up a stainless steel and granite base, which is inscribed with this quote from his autobiography: “Press forward at all times climbing toward that higher ground of the harmonious society that shapes the laws of man to the laws of God.” As if he is the embodiment of his own words, Powell holds his Congressional Record in one hand as he looks up towards a future he envisions. His coattails fly behind him, suggesting the fierce winds of opposition he faced.
All of the legislation he introduced, including the bedrock legislation "Equal Pay for Equal Work", is also inscribed on the base beneath Powell. The inscriptions serve to celebrate Powell’s civic contributions and educate the viewer about Powell’s lesser-known but nonetheless significant contributions to social justice such as: expanding minimum wage, advocating for equal pay for women, making lynching a federal crime, ensuring education and training for the deaf, desegregating public schools, and challenging the Southern practice of charging blacks a poll tax for voting.
The monument stands at a busy intersection in Harlem--inviting people from all corners to gaze upwards at a figure in the process of ascending to a greater height. By inviting the viewer's gaze upward, the monument is a symbolic reminder of the importance of community upliftment as a necessary ideal and goal.
Detail of "Higher Ground: The Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Memorial" by Branly Cadet.
"Higher Ground: The Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Memorial" by Branly Cadet. Photo by Gideon Manasseh.
Thematic Quote Granite Plaque Detail of "Higher Ground: The Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Memorial" by Branly Cadet.
"Higher Ground: The Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Memorial" by Branly Cadet.
Listed below are some of the resources, talented individuals, institutions and groups who each had a hand in helping to birth this memorial:
"King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr." by W. Haygood
"Adam by Adam" by A. Powell, Jr.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Memorial Committee
Will Brown, Jr.
Dr. Ademola Olugebefola
Frank Denner Architect
New York Art Foundry, Inc.
Fourth State Metals
Nancy Chung, Esq.
Akin Gump LLP
Adam Clayton Powell, IV
There were many more people involved, both seen and unseen, whom I've, no doubt, left off this list. If there are any omissions, they are an oversight on my part and not a reflection of the immense gratitude I feel for your contribution.