Councilman Herbert Loring Jackson’s friend and neighbor, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., was born just after him on Nov. 29, 1908 and lived until April 4, 1972. Mr. Powell was one of the more famous and colorful of Oak Bluffs’ history-making black elected officials.

The first black person elected to New York’s city council in 1942, Mr. Powell, who was pastor of the famous Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, became the first black U.S. congressman from New York in 1945. As a 12-term congressman of the 22nd congressional district, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. called for an end to lynching in the South and Jim Crow laws, called for integrating congressional restaurants, recreational facilities and press stations and advocated for the independence of African and Asian nations. He chaired the House Committee on Education and Labor and helped create several legislative reforms including a minimum-wage increase, educational resources for the deaf, funding for student loans, work hour regulations and job training. Mr. Powell served until 1970, and then due to a plethora of controversy he lost the Democratic primary by a small margin to Charles Rangel, who still holds the seat.

Here in Oak Bluffs, Mr. Powell enjoyed fishing, clamming and socializing with a wide range of friends. As a child, his fatherm the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church before him, brought him to stay at the Jackson family’s historic Shearer Cottage. Mr. Powell spent his honeymoon here. In 1937, he and his wife Isabel Geraldine Washington bought their house on Dorothy West avenue, at the corner of Myrtle avenue, which they called the Bunny Cottage after their pet names for each other, Bunny Girl and Bunny Boy. For years two wooden cutouts of rabbits graced each side of the front doors until Mrs. Powell — nicknamed Belle — moved them into the kitchen, according to historian Robert C. Hayden, author of African Americans on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Today the cottage is a landmark on the African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard, and, along with Dorothy West’s cottage, slated to signify Oak Bluffs in the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opening Sept. 24. The much beloved Belle maintained the house until her death in 2007 and the family continues to own the home.

The congressman is memorialized by the Adam Clayton Powell New York state office building located on 125th street at the corner of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem. The 19-story building was designed by the late black architect Conrad A. Johnson Jr., a frequent visitor to Oak Bluffs and guest of my father Ewell W. Finley, the engineer of the project. The project was completed in 1973, and the late Oak Bluffs fisherman Bob Coveney’s company supplied the steel for the building. Years of controversy surrounding the building were covered for The New York Times by Sunset Lake’s Charlayne Hunter-Gault in the 1970s and it again made the news when Bill Clinton made his post-presidency offices there.

There is a family dance party at the library on Saturday, Feb. 13, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Next Friday there is a Wii afternoon from 3 to 4:30 p.m. for ages 8 and older.

Patricia J. Williams speaks at the library for Black History Month on Saturday, Feb. 13 at 10 a.m. courtesy of the League of Women Voters. Contact Julia Burgess for more details at 508-693-3338.

If you’re looking for company for Valentine's Day, try library speed dating, where folks bring two or three books that she or he is either reading or loves as conversation starters. The mini-dates last about five minutes to see if there’s chemistry. Two sessions: one for ages 21-45 on Friday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m., and one for ages 45 and up on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 2:30 p.m.

Catch Ocean Park filmmaker Stan Nelson’s new movie, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, on Tuesday evening at 9 p.m. on PBS (channel 2 or 702).

To close, a quote from Adam Clayton Powell Jr.: “I, Adam Powell, may belong to a group of people that some others may think are inferior, but I belong to a group of people that God, omniscient, omnipresent God, God of all power says ‘You are my children, and you’re the same as anyone else!’”

Keep your foot on a rock.

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