Civil Rights in America, Then and Now
In this powerful program, war hero, history-making congressman and master lawmaker Charles Rangel reflects on his time in Congress and shares his views on race and politics in America today. The first African American to lead the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rangel opens up about what it was like as an African-American Congressman in the early 1970s, his rapid rise through the House’s ranks, and the watershed moments and cultural shifts that occurred along the way. Taking audiences through the Obama years to the present day, Rangel shares his moving message on racial inequality today, empowering audiences to find inspiration in the country’s history and to exercise their power within the political system.
Charles B. Rangel, war hero, history-making congressman, master lawmaker. A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, he made history as the first African American member of Congress to lead the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Completing his 22nd term in the House of Representatives in January 2017, he had been cited as the most effective lawmaker in the House, leading all of his colleagues in passing legislation. He was a prime contributor to President Obama's historic health care reform law.
Growing up on the other side of the tracks on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, he was transformed from high school dropout to war hero after volunteering for service in the Army during the Korean War. Wounded in an attack by waves of Communist Chinese troops, he was awarded a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for Valor after leading his surviving comrades from behind enemy lines.
With the aid of the G.I. Bill, he earned degrees from New York University and St. John's University Law School. He began his public service as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and was later elected to the New York State Assembly. He came to Washington in 1971 to serve in the House after defeating the legendary Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
In Congress, following Saint Matthew's teaching, he has been a stalwart champion for the "least among us," advocating powerfully and persistently to improve the lives of working people. He is a defender of veterans and has treated education as a national security issue.
A leading advocate for equal rights and equal opportunity, Congressman Rangel has boosted the incomes of millions of working families with the Earned Income Tax Credit, and pumped billions of dollars into revitalization of communities across the nation, including Harlem. Demonstrating his commitment to education, he has created financial mechanisms to construct and rehabilitate public schools across the country.
Congressman Rangel's unparalleled foreign policy record has focused on Africa and the Caribbean. In 1986, he sounded the death knell for apartheid in South Africa with the "Rangel Amendment," which forced the largest U.S. investors to abandon the country. He has created trading and investment opportunities for struggling nations in the Caribbean and Africa. In 2010, he successfully promoted vital investment incentives for earthquake ravaged Haiti.
Among his proudest achievements is founding the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program in the State Department, in cooperation with Howard University. As of 2015, most of the 200 Rangel Fellows who completed the program were serving as U.S. State Department Foreign Service Officers in U.S. Embassies around the world. Congressman Rangel still resides with his wife Alma in Harlem where he was born. They have two adult children and three grandchildren.