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King of the Cats Paperback – 21 Apr 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 476 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New title edition (21 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060842415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060842413
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,922,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 19 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
American Biography at its best 7 Nov. 2005
By C. Ellen Connally - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A dust cover reference states that "King of the Cats" is one of the best biographies of an Americna Politicain to be published in recent years." I could not agree more.

"King of the Cats" sat on a shelf at my house for 10 years or so as one of those books I'll get to eventually. After reading an essay about Adam Clayton Powell, I decided to delve deeper and reached for the book. Two days later I had finished all 400 pages. I'm just sorry that I waited this long to read it.

Haygood not only tells the life of Powell, but he tells the life of America during the middle years of the 20th century. Readers in their 50's and 60's will remember many of the events. Haygood shows how Powell followed Oscar DePriest to congress with a flamboyant style that Washington was not ready for. His predecessors in the 20th century congress were quiet men, willing to work within the system. They were men who wanted to get along and get re-elected. With his solid base in Harlem and political independence, Powell did not have to worry about that. Quiet just wasn't his style.

His life style was something that would not be accepted now. Since Gary Hart, womanizing Congressman are not acceptable. In the 21st century a hard drinking, thrice married minister, who made rare appearances in Congress would not be acceptable. But in the 1950's and 1960's Powell was king and could do what he wanted.

The sad part is that this independence, this bravado is what brought him down. When sued for libel, he disregarded the courts. When he finally got to be a powerful chairman, he took a carte blanche attitude with federal money and job, all of which contributed to his down fall. Race was clearly a factor, in his demise, but as Haywood says a number of times, Powell was his own worse enemy.

With all his faults, however, Powell made a signicant mark on the history of congress and the nation. His law suit, challenging the right of congress to refuse to seat him, make legal history. LBJ's Great Society and War on Poverty could hardly have passed with out Powell. He got the first black man into the US Naval Academy. He opened doors for thousands of people with jobs and increases in the minimum wage. But how soon we as a society forget.

There is an old saying about knowing when to hold and when to fold and don't count your money while you're sitting at the table. Powell never learned that. Times changed - Harlem changed - new black leaders arose - but Powell didn't change. He thought that things would always go his way. Who was this lowly preacher from Atlanta - Martin Luther King - to challenge Powell, a member of Congress? Powell did not give credit or recognition to other black leaders. When he needed them, they looked the other way.

Haywood graphically describes Powell's final years as an isolated, broke and dying man on the Island of Bimini. I was close to tears.

Haywood is a remarkable writer who wrote about a remarkable man. This is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of black leadership in America and the 1950's and 1960's.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Terrific - I devoured it in one sitting!!! 17 Nov. 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
As an African-American woman from a family similar to Reverend Powell's, I found this book highly enjoyable. I was certainly able to relate to the issues of skin tone, education, and the Black caste system that still exists today.
Unfortunately, Reverend Powell has been largely forgotten or ignored by the younger generation who have benefitted from his many contributions to Black causes through his election to Congress. I found Mr. Haygood's research to be thorough and unbiased, which is rare for so controversial a figure as Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

I think that many teenagers and twentysomethings of all nationalities would be enlightened and empowered by reading this thoughtfully written, excellent profile of a courageous man. It reads like a novel. What a life! I highly recommend it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An excellent book on an inspirational Black leader. 14 Jan. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is a wonderful biography of one of our most inspirational and influential African-American leaders. I found this book to be an invaluable source for understanding the courageous challenges Adam Clayton Powell undertook to establish the civil and human rights of African-Americans. I am grateful that this book was written because Adam Clayton Powell was often misrepresented and ridiculed. This book gives examples of his personality, charisma and flair without minimizing his intellect and brave dedication. I regret deeply that my book has been lost and I cannot seem to find another one.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
History of African-American legislators 14 Nov. 2004
By L.B. Tatum - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"King of Cats" was an extremely entertaining and enlightening historical record. I have always wondered why ACP Jr. was left out of public school social, political and civic text books. After reading Wil Haygood book, I think I know why. APC Jr. did'nt subscribe to a compromising "go with the flow" black political agenda.

The writing of Haygood sounds as if he personally walked with ACP Jr. for some 50+ years. I felt as if I was there in Harlem, in Washington and Abyssian. I laughed, I cried, I felt the victories and the disappointments. Great book. A must read for religious, black history or political scholars who want to know the truth on how to "level the playing field" for oppressed people.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Social History 19 July 2009
By Middle-aged Professor - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The subtitle of this entertaining and informative read -- the life and times of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. -- well captures the essence of the book. We learn all about the charismatic and influential Powell, but we also learn a great deal about the black experience in the United States in the 20th century. The tale is told with the pithty insight of a skilled newspaper columnist and with the perspective on African-American institutions (Harlem, churches, jazz clubs, the NAACP) and experiences that were refreshing and informative to this (white) reader. Although you are left with a great deal of knowledge about Powell, and his "life and times," the man himself remains somewhat of an enigma, or at least a bundle of contradictions. Hard to imagine, though, who will not enjoy and learn from this excellent book.
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