CHAPTER 12. VERNON JOHNS IN HARLEM, 1926-1927: HIS INFLUENCE ON ADAM CLAYTON POWELL, JR.
In 1926 Vernon Johns became involved in the world of religious social work when he took the position of director of the Baptist Educational Center in New York City a meeting place of black ministers located in or visiting the city. The center was a partial fulfillment of one of the best dreams of Dr. Charles Hatch Sears, Secretary of the New York City Baptist Mission Society.
Life in Harlem
Harlem was at one time a Jewish neighborhood. The main thoroughfare of business and entertainment was West 125th Street. Here one found the Harlem Opera House, Hurtig & Seamon's Music Hall (where Sophie Tucker and Fanny Brice sometimes appeared), the New Orpheum Theatre, and cinema houses like Proctor's, the Victoria, and the Orient. The wealthier families dined at Pabst's Restaurant. At the intersection of Seventh Avenue and 125th Street stepladder suffragettes, Socialists, and Henry George single-taxers made the radical speeches of the day. (Anderson 1982:47)
The racial transformation of Harlem began with an ill-planned white real-estate boom sparked by the building of the Lenox Avenue subway line, opened in 1904 (Douglas 1995:310). The Lenox line was intended to attract a flood of white middle-class investors and inhabitants to Harlem, but for various reasons the flood failed to materialize. Black renters and realtors, led by Philip A. Payton, Jr., seized the opportunity and helped start the black move into the area.
In 1910 roughly 90 percent of America's Negro population still lived in the South, 78 percent of them in the countryside. As many as 450,000 blacks left the South between 1910 and 1920; 749,000 more did so in the next decade. Between 1900 and 1930, the total number of blacks in the North increased by almost 300 percent (Douglas 1995:73). Many of the best and the brightest came to Harlem. Harlem's black population, a mere handful in 1900, rose to close to 200,000 during that first decade. Indeed, Harlem became the race capital of the United States (Wall 1995:3).
The Jazz Age was largely a black creation culturally and white urban Americans wanted to go to the source to get more of it. By the mid-1920s, Harlem was being advertised as the "Nightclub Capital of the World." About 125 nightclubs, led by the Cotton Club and Connie's Inn, served up black music and dancing to white patrons eager to enjoy what was the most exciting entertainment scene in America (Douglas 1995:74). Harlem was especially attractive as this was the age of Prohibition and in the streets of Harlem you could buy or sell almost anything (Anderson 1982:149).
In 1926, according to Vanity Fair, the Negro was "in the ascendancy." Almost everyone was dancing the Charleston and acclaiming the performances of Paul Robeson, Roland Hayes, Jules Bledsoe, Abbie Mitchell, Bessie Smith, Taylor Gordon, Ethel Waters, and Bill (Bojangles) Robinson. Jazz artists like Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Edith Wilson, Louis Armstrong, and Fats Waller worked their musical magic. Harlem cabarets were "more popular than ever" (Anderson 1982:168). Cab Calloway came to Harlem in 1929.
The most beloved public figure in Harlem during the twenties was the petite dancer and singer Florence Mills, who lived for a time on West 133rd Street. She was an international star and Harlemites were proud to know that she lived among them. She burned brightly for more than six years. She died in 1927 at the age of thirty-two (Anderson 1982:181). Her funeral was probably the most moving event that ever took place at Mother Zion. Almost everyone in Harlem tried to attend the funeral or watched the procession pass. As the hearse went up Seventh Avenue, a flock of blackbirds was released from an airplane overhead (Harris 1968:101).
In political and other forms of intellectual life, Harlem was ablaze intellectually (Anderson 1982:186,188,203). Opinions varied from those of black nationalists like Marcus Garvey to black socialist radicals such as A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen. There were often discussion group meetings on Sunday mornings. George S. Schuyler, a black journalist, attended some of these, many held in Randolph's apartment. For a time it appeared as though Negro literature was the most important in the country. White writers boasted of dining with James Weldon Johnson, lunching with Burghardt Du Bois and having cocktails with Walter White.
What would Johns have seen walking in Harlem in the late 1920s? If he started walking west from the northern boundary of Central Park North (110th Street) he could walk over to Fifth Avenue and would run into Marcus Garvey Park (before 1973 called Mount Morris Park), extending from 120th Street to 124th Street. Here he could see the firetower in the park. In 1776 the park was the site of a fort defended by General Washington's forces during the American Revolutionary War. Just southeast of the park was the home of the Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes at 20 East 120th Street. Hughes spent the last twenty years of his life in this ivy-covered building. The house was the only one he ever occupied for any length of time.
Walking west on 125th Street he would have run into the Hurtig and Seamon's New (Burlesque) Theater (later to become the Apollo Theater) at 253 West 125th Street. Built in 1913 it presented vaudeville and burlesque shows to white audiences. It was not until 1935 that the Apollo Theatre began presenting variety shows featuring leading black entertainers.
Walking north on 7th Avenue up to 138th Street and then walking over to Lenox Avenue he would have passed Strivers' Row and the St. Nicholas Historic District and then the Abyssinian Baptist Church, where Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. presided. The houses on 138th and 139th Streets, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, have been called Strivers Row. They are part of the St. Nicholas Historic District. They were built between 1889 and 1891 as suburban homes for wealthy people who wished to live "in the country." Lack of public transportation caused the plan to fall through, and the houses were sold to blacks, who had moved to Harlem in great numbers by then. The houses were designed by Stanford White, the well-know architect. Harlem residents referred to the people who bought these homes as "folks striving to get up in the world" -- hence the name Strivers Row (Harris 1968:95-97).
The basement of 257 West 138th Street housed the first office and factory of the Black Swan Record Company, the first such firm owned and operated by blacks. In 1921 Black Swan artists toured the country. Included among their artists were Ethel Waters and Alberta Hunter (J&G December 10, 1921:5) The company sold a half million records during its first six months. As it expanded, the company moved to larger quarters at 2289 Seventh Avenue. Black Swan records are now collectors' items (Harris 1968:97).
Walking back to 7th Avenue and proceeding north would take Johns to the Dunbar Apartments. Built in 1926 and financed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the Dunbar was the city's first large cooperative for blacks and Manhattan's earliest larger garden apartment complex. Named for the black poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, the Dunbar was the home of many famous Harlem residents, including Countee Cullen, W. E. B. Du Bois, A. Phillip Randolph, Paul Robeson, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and Matthew A. Henson, codiscoverer, with Admiral Peary, of the North Pole.
Walking over to the white area by the Hudson River, Johns would have walked around the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Columbia University, Riverside Church (where Harry Emerson Fosdick held sway), Grant's Tomb, and City College. Columbia's President Butler termed Morningside Heights the American Acropolis. Grouped within Morningside Heights area slightly more than a half-mile long, from 110th Street to 122nd Street, and slightly less than a half-mile wide, from Morningside Avenue to Riverside Drive, were Columbia University and its affiliated institutions Teachers College and Barnard College, Union Theological Seminary, Jewish Theological Seminary, International House, Horace Mann School, Lincoln School, Juilliard School of Music, Saint Luke's Hospital, Cathedral of Saint John the Dive -- and Grant's Tomb (Miller 1985:203).
The Harlem Renaissance
The year 1917 is traditionally cited as the natal year of the Harlem Renaissance. This renaissance is interesting because it was an arts movement institutionally encouraged and directed by leaders of the national civil rights establishment for the paramount purpose of improving race relations in a time of extreme national backlash. W. E. B. Du Bois (Lewis 1994:xv) labeled this mobilizing elite the "Talented Tenth" in a seminal 1903 essay. The talented tenth were to propagate a new ideology of racial assertiveness. It received support from the NAACP and the National Urban League (NUL), and their respective publications, the Crisis and Opportunity magazines.
There were actually three phases of the Harlem Renaissance. From around 1917 to 1923, the movement was deeply influenced by white artists and writers. White bohemians and revolutionaries were fascinated with the lives of black people.
The second phase, from early 1924 to mid-1926, was presided over by the Civil Rights Establishment of the NUL and the NAACP. This was the period of the Talented Tenth. Charles S. Johnson, new editor of Opportunity, sent invitations to some dozen young and mostly unknown black poets and writers to attend a celebration at Manhattan's Civic Club of the sudden outpouring of "Negro" writing, to be held March 21, 1924. Those who attended included Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, and Walter White, whose energies as a literary entrepreneur would soon excel even Charles Johnson's.
Du Bois was in NYC speaking, January 27. He said Russia's attempt at a solution of the race problem is better than ours. A. Phillip Randolph was also there in Harlem speaking at various engagements. (Amsterdam News January 12, 1927:1)
Among the white intellectuals in New York City, it was a time to go out of their way to meet blacks, invite them to parties and ask them to serve as passports to Harlem. Carl Van Vechten, novelist and critic, gave interracial parties that were routinely reported in the black press. Black art became a "white fad." The black writer Zora Neal Hurston (Hemenway 1977:23-27) became a part of this scene when she came to New York from Florida the first week of January 1925. Among her various employments, she was the personal secretary of the famous Jewish burlesque comedian Fannie Hurst. Hurston became the "Queen of the Niggerati." Among the black artists that Hurston interacted with were Eric Walrond, Countee Cullen, Jessie Fauset, Ana Bontemps, Bruce Nugent, Langston Hughes, and Charles S. Johnson.
The last phase, from mid-1926 to the Harlem Riot of March 1935, was increasingly dominated by the black artists themselves. Thurman and associate editors Johns Davis, Aaron Douglas, Gwendolyn Bennett, Arthur Huff Fauset, Hughes, Hurston, and Nugent took the Renaissance to new heights.
The rising tide of black nationalism expressed itself in Marcus Garvey's "Back-to-Africa" movement.
It was Garvey who best articulated the alienation of the black masses. Perhaps as many as half a million blacks, in thirty cities, joined his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) -- one of them was the father of Malcolm X. Elaborately costumed and proclaiming himself a messiah, he launched a crusade in an effort to inspire blacks to return to Africa. Garvey, a West Indian who came to the United States in 1916, exalted black skin and assured the black that Africa had a glorious past that gave promise of a brilliant future. Although his ideology promising blacks return to Africa was largely escapist, he did help black urban slumdwellers develop some degree of racial identity and racial pride.
Garvey, like the Black Muslims later, espoused economic nationalism. He urged Negroes to support Negro businesses (Broderick and Meier 1965:82). In fact, Garvey was a follower of Booker T. Washington in economic matters.
Garvey's downfall in 1925 came as a result of the inept and allegedly fraudulent practices of the ill-fated Black Star Steamship Line, which aimed to establish trade between blacks in America and those in the West Indies and Africa. In 1927 the government deported Garvey (Broderick and Meier 1965:82).
Director of the Baptist Educational Center, NYC: 1926-1927
On September 1, 1926 in Lynchburg Mrs. Myrtle Rose provided entertainment for a recently wed couple. Present were Alroy Spencer and the Reverend Vernon Johns (J&G September 11, 1926).
In September Dr. R. C. Woods (J&G September 18, 1926) announced he would be retiring as president of Virginia Seminary. He accepted an appointment as Director of Religious and Social Research of the Negro headquartered at Columbus, Ohio. He had come to Virginia Seminary when there was only one building and left when there were six. "There are now four commodious brick structures of which two are residences, one the president's home and the other the teachers' cottage."
Some time probably in 1926 Vernon Johns started in Lynchburg a very small journal entitled Negro Pulpit Opinion: An Interpretation of Christianity by Colored People or alternately Negro Pulpit Opinion: A Monthly Pamphlet of Preaching. It consisted primarily of one sermon along with a poem and/or an extended quote on a relevant issue. There was also some observations of others summarized in a half page section entitled "Religion as Seen by Laymen." The cost was ten cents an issue or one dollar for a year's subscription.
Probably the first issue was in December 1926. Usually the issues did not give a month or date. One that did was the December issue (no year) entitled A Christmas Sermon. Its title was ". . . And We Beheld His Glory." It stated that "Sufficient funds have been provided in advance to guarantee the publication of this little messenger of one year. Your immediate subscription will help us lay the foundation for the years to follow." The address given for the subscription is Lynchburg.
Chauncey Spencer said that "I think he went to New York because of the Abyssinia Baptist church in Harlem with its dynamic preacher, Adam Clayton Powell, Sr." When Vernon Johns went to New York to be the director of the Baptist Educational Center, he continued working on the journal, but issued it now from New York. One subscription address was 201 Lenox Avenue, New York City. Another address is that of the Baptist Education Center itself at 215 West 129th Street, New York City. In New York while Johns was the director, J. Raymond Henderson was the contributing editor.
In Harlem at that time, Rev. William P. Hayes, DD, pastor of Mount Olivet Baptist Church, 201 Lenox Avenue. Rev. J. Raymond Henderson was assistant pastor. (Amsterdam News September 29, 1926:14) Others prominent at the time, and mentioned in the paper (Amsterdam News Sept. 29, 1926:15), included Charles S. Morris, Jr. His father married Frederick Douglas's granddaughter and he was one time pastor of the Abyssinia Baptist Church. Then he was pastor of Fifth Street Baptist Church in Richmond and dean of Virginian Theological Seminary and College, Lynchburg. He is working on an M.A. degree at Columbia. At least as early as 1926 the Abyssinia Baptist Church was giving money to Virginia Theological Seminary and College (Amsterdam News October 27, 1926:14).
Johns received a letter of recommendation dated December 17, 1927 from Dean T. W. Graham of Oberlin concerning J. Raymond Henderson. The dean wrote "I have pleasure in saying a good word of recommendation for the Rev. J. R. Henderson. I am enclosing to you a transcript of his record at Oberlin. He spent his junior year with us at Oberlin, then went to Union returning for the last half of his Senior year and graduated with the record I enclose. Mr. Henderson impresses me as a man of real ability, with very considerable powers of leadership and one who can be looked to for the most substantial kind of work."
In one of the issues (containing the sermon "The Foundation of Immortality") is a page of material about the Baptist Education Center entitled "A Place Where Preachers Meet." It describes the physical setting of the center. It had two spacious rooms that opened into each other permitting as many as one hundred persons to sit down. In the center there was a piano, a large number of "the very best" books and more than a hundred of "the best" magazines published.
"At two o'clock each Wednesday it is the privilege of this group of ministers assembled at the center to listen to an address on some religious theme. Some of the speakers included Dean Brown of Yale University, Joseph Fort Newton pastor of City Temple, London, Dr. J. W. E. Bowen of Atlanta, the chaplain of Fiske University as well as its President, Colonel Robert T. Kerlin, and Dr. Mable Lee with her doctorate from Columbia University. "Is it any wonder that one must go to the Center on Wednesday afternoons if he wishes to find the pastors in and around New York who believe in progress and are working to bring the best to their congregations?"
"Preachers from far away places have learned the number, for about the table yesterday there sat a brother from Norfolk, Virginia, reading the Hibbert Journal, another from Boston, reading Applied Religion, while a third minister, just in the night before from Columbia, South Carolina, perused the latest book of the Religious Book Club."
Vernon Johns often used words in ways that are not technically incorrect, but sound funny. He uses words that sometimes degrade and make fun of the topic he is considering. At times it seems he lacked the proper emotional feeling for the subject and the results sounded strange. For instance, the poems were always put under the heading "Atmosphere."
In the issue containing the sermon "The Foundation of Immortality" there was a page entitled "The Philosopher's Porch." It is probably by Vernon Johns judging from its tenor: "The Negro's problem partakes of the nature of a dilemma. His first business is physical survival and this is to take place amidst a powerful majority group nearly all of whom either hate, despise, or are indifferent to him. In such a situation, characteristic pugnacity might bring to the Negro the bitter fate of the American Indian, leaving of the race only a few specimens for the white man's museum. On the other hand, for the Negro to see himself as the white man sees him is to deserve something worse than extermination. One way out remains. As far as possible, he must learn to meet white prejudice with quietness and pity, proceed to think reasonably well of himself and to justify that opinion before the world in the face of mighty odds. This will be hard to do."
An interesting insight into Johns' thinking is contained in the page "By Way of Explanation." It certainly shows that Johns's religion was no "we'll get pie in the sky someday" approach. He wanted to impress on the blacks that, even if their place was a humble one and though they suffered a great deal, they still had to continue to strive. "When the Rich Young Ruler had come to Jesus, and gone away, the Master said that his circumstance placed a very real barrier between him and the Kingdom of God. The Negro may be quite as far from the Kingdom as that class whose entrance is made difficult by the possession of wealth and authority."
"No indication appears that my race would have holiness written on the bells of horses, overnight, if it could have its way in the world! But the distance between us and the Christian goal is certainly not the result of wealth and authority, so it may be that a call in the name of Jesus, to the general consciousness from the pole at which we live, can help to create in society a saving equilibrium."
"Nietzsche was wont to say that Christianity is an invention of the Weak to save themselves from the Strong. Well, we could not blame the Weak for that. But Christianity is no such an invention. It is rather the work of the strong who refuse to employ their advantage to the detriment of the weak, and find in this refusal not only the highest morality, but also the deepest wisdom."
"It is our purpose that this modest publishing venture shall follow the natural principle of growth: 'First the Blade, then the Ear, then the Full Corn in the Ear.'" Here is the blade.
In the January 1927 issue which contained the sermon "What Ails the World?" the editors in the foreword thanked their supporters. "The interest which leaders of religious thought have taken in the first issue of NPO is very gratifying. A single mail brought subscriptions from three of the ministers included in the American poll of the twenty-five outstanding American preachers. The subscriber lists included Dr. Joseph Fort Newton, Frederick F. Shannon, Mordecai W. Johnson, J. Campbell Morgan, Dean E. I. Bosworth, Professor Kemper Fullerton, and Herman Dreer."
In this issue was a foreword saying "We regret that failure to secure an expected manuscript in time, has made it necessary to use sermons by the same person in two successive issues." Both sermons were by Vernon Johns. Also in the issue, the editors worried about the survival of the journal. "If you believe in the mission of this little paper and intend to help make its continued publication possible, please send your subscriptions at once. The magazine is so small you might forget it." Next month they advertised a sermon by Dr. W. P. Hayes of Mount Olivet Baptist Church, New York City. Mount Olivet Baptist Church was at 201 Lenox Avenue and 120th Street.
In the issue with the sermon "The Men Who Let Us Drink," Raymond Henderson wrote "A Prayer for Ministers." In it he wrote the following: "Lift us up above controversial preaching. From the useless wrangling and strife over matters of little consequence save us." Was he making reference to the controversies that followed Johns wherever he went? If Johns the prophet never tired of the endless wrangling, certainly his colleagues must have gotten weary. Or maybe Henderson was advising the visiting ministers to refrain from constant squabbling with Johns.
Vernon Johns did not last long in Harlem. By February he was in West Virginia at another job. Again, we do not know why Vernon Johns left the Baptist Educational Center. But again it would not be hard to guess. A prophet cannot keep his mouth shut. Inevitably a prophet will get into trouble. The combination of political unorthodoxy and social heresy once again probably combined to oust Johns.
Vernon Johns and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
One of the outstanding civil rights leaders before the coming of Martin Luther King, Jr. was Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Little is known of the relationship between Vernon Johns and Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. and Jr. But we do know that there was a relationship because in 1933 when Powell, Jr. went on his honeymoon he traveled first to the farm of Vernon Johns in Farmville. There must have been a serious relationship here for one does not spend his honeymoon with someone if they are not a very good friend.
Because Vernon Johns has been so ignored, few people know about him. For instance, two of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.'s biographers Charles V. Hamilton (1991) and Wil Haygood (1993) both mention Adam Junior's honeymoon in Virginia, but they merely say that the couple honeymooned with a friend on a farm in Virginia. Well, that friend was none other than Vernon Johns.
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was born in Harlem in 1908 a few weeks after his father had assumed the pulpit of the Abyssinian Baptist Church on 40th street. He grew up in style as befitted the son of a father of a grand church. One of his early playmates was Thomas Waller, later known by the nickname "Fats" Waller. Fats Waller was the son of an assistant preacher at the Abyssinian Baptist Church. As boys, the two would climb through the church window and Waller would tap out tunes on the organ (Haygood 1993:2). When the church moved up to Harlem, Powell, Jr. took on an increasingly wild life-style. He saw himself as a lady's man and took up smoking a pipe.
In 1922 he began high school studies at the prestigious Townsend Harris Hall located between 138th and 140th Street in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, on the City College campus. After completing its three year course of studies, its graduates were guaranteed admission to City College without having to take that college's stiff entrance examination. Powell excelled both academically and athletically at the school (Haygood 1993:3-4).
Going onto City College, his first semester was disastrous, largely due to his chasing women. His second semester was no better, made worse by the death of his beloved older sister Blanche. In fact, he was dismissed from the college at the end of his second semester. The family believed that Adam should be sent to a college in the countryside, away from the wild city. Adam Senior arranged for his son to enter Colgate University, in the town of Hamilton in upstate New York (Haygood 1993:4-5).
Powell Junior attended Colgate from 1926 to 1930 (Haygood 1993:10- 12 and 18). For a short time at the start he passed for white. This created a small scandal on campus. His fellow blacks did not appreciate the experiment. (His father warned him "Never let that happen again.")
In 1927, needing dates to the winter carnival dance, Powell Junior traveled to Harlem and brought back a bevy of girls (Haygood 1993:13-14). Powell's date was Isabel Washington, a New York City night club performer. In fact, Powell Junior was often in Harlem during this time period when Vernon Johns was there also. He wanted to partly impress his classmates so he invited them down to Harlem, to stay at the Abyssinian church, and treat them to dinners and take them on dates.
Powell Junior chose biblical literature as his major, undoubtedly influenced by his father. His first year went well academically, but his second year was much less accomplished as he spent his weekends in New York (Haygood 1993:15).
His best white friend Howard Armstrong remembered a trip to Harlem with Adam Junior (Haygood 1993:16). Staying with his parents, Armstrong soon realized that the Powells' wasn't a house of traditional Baptist ministers. Adam Senior told him that "You know we blacks are not jealous of you whites. In some respects we feel superior." Armstrong barely moved as the elder Powell went into a conversation about black women, dark-skinned women and light-skinned women, and the joy of having women of various hues from which to choose. Later that day Adam Junior treated him to an evening at the whites-only Cotton Club.
Powell's performance improved in his last two years at Colgate. In his biblical literature classes, professors found him so adept that they asked him to address his fellow students as a lecturer. Powell Jr. graduated in 1930 (Haygood 1993:16-17). On October 1, 1930, at age twenty-two, he was appointed business manager of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, a new position created by the Board of Deacons, and director of the church's community center.
Powell Junior had a brief stint as a student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He received a masters degree from Columbia University Teachers College at the end of 1932.
Powell Junior really started to come into his own with the Harlem riot of 1935. He wrote articles in the New York Post commenting on the rioting and began a weekly column in the Amsterdam News in February 1936, entitled "The Soap Box." Only six years out of college, he was becoming one of the identifiable young leaders in the community (Hamilton 1991:Chapter 3). He seemed definitely influenced by socialist thought calling for a combination of white and black workers in a united laboring class.
He was also very hard on the ministry. He said there was too much trivia and irrelevancy in the black churches, especially coming from the preachers. "Harlem has sixty-eight churches, excluding the fly-by-nighters. You can count on your fingers all of them that are worth keeping open." He also said "Our ministry is composed of a bunch of spiritual sissies. The hour has struck also for a purging of the church." (Hamilton 1991:69) Young Powell flirted with the Communists and challenged the NAACP (his father was a vice president) from the pulpit for its conservatism (Haygood 1993:46). The socialist part would not have come from Vernon Johns, but certainly the criticism of the clerics could have, as well as a call for the social engagement of the ministers in community affairs. But of course his father also believed this part.
Early on it was apparent that the son's theology did not follow the exact mold of the father's. Adam Jr. rejected the concept of a "hereafter." "There is no heaven or hell in the sense that they are places to which one goes after death." Nor did he believe in the Bible as the word of God. He accepted only the words of Jesus Christ as recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (Hamilton 1991:85). This latter part would have fit with Vernon Johns's emphasis on Jesus Christ, but also with the personalists.
Also sounding like Johns, Powell let it be known that one need not attend church in one's finest clothes or even with a coat and tie (a truly radical view for such a Sunday-morning black congregation), but only that the attire be "decent" (Hamilton 1991:86). He added "I am critical of those who claim to be Christian but do not carry out in their daily life this kind of religion." Here is vintage Johns. Powell decided to make Americans as uncomfortable as possible with the discrepancy between creed and practice. "His aim in race relations was not to be polite, but rather deliberately to raise the discomfort level as high as possible on this subject" (Hamilton 1991:5). Powell not only attacked whites, but blacks also, calling many of his opponents "Uncle Toms." Again, this is consistent with the approach of Vernon Johns.
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