Colin Powell: A Flight from Power?

Colin Powell: A Flight from Power?

I was preparing to drive from Cambridge, Massachusetts to my alma mater, Lincoln University, near Oxford, Pennsylvania, the day last fall that General Colin Powell announced his exit from what was a kind of presidential campaign. His decision not to run for the Republican nomination both surprised and disappointed me. It also prompted a search for a satisfactory explanation. I began with the Washington Post’s account of Powell’s withdrawal, which stressed the authoritative role that Alma Powell has played in her husband’s life from the start of their marriage until this critical decision.

The Post’s argument was familiar; it recalled the role of social status in defining the relationship of certain successful black couples—where the man moves up through marriage, from the lower class or middling middle class into the real black bourgeoisie. As an African-American reared among the middling middle class, I had known about these kinds of status shifts via marriage among black folks, but it was during my years at Lincoln (1949-1953) that I became fully cognizant of this pattern.

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Lima