Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

Powell in photo by James J. Kriegman, Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division, cph.3a39172

Date of Birth: November 29, 1908

Place of Birth: New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.

Date of Death: April 4, 1972

Place of Death: Miami, Florida, U.S.

Ethnicity: African-American, some European

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was an American Baptist minister and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he was a Member of the New York City Council, from January 1, 1942 to January 3, 1945, and a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York, from January 3, 1945 to January 3, 1967, and again, from January 3, 1969 to January 3, 1971.

Adam was the son of Mattie F. (Buster) and The Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. His father was a pastor who developed the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York into the largest Protestant congregation in the U.S.

Adam’s parents were both black. His parents also both had European ancestry, including possibly Welsh and German. Adam was also described as having some degree of Native American ancestry. It is not clear if this Native American ancestry has been verified/documented.

Adam had a son with his former wife, dancer and actress Isabel Washington Powell; a son, journalist, media executive, and scholar Adam Clayton Powell III, with his former wife, singer Hazel Scott; and a son, politician Adam Clayton Powell IV, with his former wife, Puerto Rican-born Yvette Flores Diago. Isabel was the sister of actress Fredi Washington.

Adam’s paternal grandmother was named Sally Clayton Dunning (the daughter of Mildred/Malinda Dunning/Dunnon). Sally was born in Virginia, and was a free woman of color. Mildred was the daughter of Hannah.

Adam’s paternal grandfather may have been Llewellyn Powell, a white planter, likely with Welsh ancestry.

Adam’s maternal grandfather was named Samuel Buster.

Adam’s maternal grandmother was named Eliza Wilson.

Source: Genealogy of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. –

3 Responses

  1. andrew says:

    Powell Jr. claimed in his autobiography “Adam By Adam” that his mother had partial German ancestry.

    Mildred/Malinda Dunning/Dunnon was described by Powell Sr. in the book “Against the Tide: An Autobiography” as “mostly Indian”.

    Powell Sr. himself passed as white in circumstances of convenience during his lifetime.

    An interesting read:…-a0221086340

  2. andrew says:

    His paternal grandfather was possibly Llewellyn Powell, a white planter (and likely with Welsh ancestry)

    Sally Dunning was a free woman of color. All Sally’s family members were free mulattoes

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