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Adam Clayton Powell Jr and His Southern Culinary Roots

Codfish Cakes, black beans, home fries, and salad, recipe below
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. became the first African American to serve in the U. S. Congress (1945 to 1971) representing the 22nd congressional district, which included Harlem. Powell also served as pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, perhaps the most politically powerful African American congregation in New York City. Both of Powell’s parents were southerners. His father was born in 1865 in Franklin County, Virginia, at Martin’s Mill, and his mother was born in 1872 on the campus of Christiansburg Academy in Christiansburg, Virginia. The mother of the senior Powell was a “Negro-Indian woman named Sally” and his stepfather was a former slave named Dunn. “I was born more than a half century ago, when [a] black stove was a place of magic where the coal fire always glowed and from which good things came,” writes Powell. His father had the southern habit of eating fish for breakfast. Often Adam’s mother would serve “codfish cakes made the preceding night and tossed up in the outside air to make them ‘light’” serving them with “baked beans cooked all night long on the back of the stove with plenty of black molasses on top and hunks of salt pork inside.”

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