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Congressman Charles Rangel has served New York's Harlem district since 1971. He was censured by his peers for ethics violations in 2010.
Political Activism in Harlem (2:14)
Opened in 1913, the Hotel Theresa was considered the "Waldorf Astoria of Harlem" welcoming famous African-Americans, such as Joe Louis and Lena Horne, who were turned away from "whites only" hotels.
Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, discusses famous figures who contributed to the history of political activism in Harlem.
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Rangel finally achieved his goal to become a member of the House Ways and Means Committee in December of 1974. "Everything we're talking about today that really matters tends to be the jurisdiction of my committee," he says of his work there.
In 1986, Rangel set his sights on the position of Democratic Majority Whip. He lost the election, but undeterred by the loss the representative instead set his sights on helping the fight against apartheid in South Africa. In 1987,
Rangel led the effort to deny tax credits for taxes paid to South Africa, and increased the taxes on profits made there by 24 percent. The financial pressure forced many companies to end their business dealings with apartheid-supporters. Called the Rangel Amendment, the piece of legislation encouraged several Fortune 500 companies to leave South Africa.
Rangel has also been known to take the fight for civil rights to the streets. He attended the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches in his early days as a politican. His participation in an anti-apartheid rally in the 80s, his protest of Amadou Diallo's shooting in 1999, and the 2004 sit-in at the Sudanese Embassy, all ended in his arrest. However, his protests all resulted in bringing national attention to the cause of civil rights.
The outspoken representative has also made headlines for his controversial-and sometimes very public-comments. His comparison of President Bush to Ku Klux Klan leader Bull Connor during an interview with radio personality Rush Limbaugh made waves in September of 2005. His profanity-laced comments about Vice President Dick Cheney in 2006 also earned him negative press. In October of 2007, he made derogative comments about on the multiple marriages of Rudolph Giuliani and Mormonism during a CNN interview. He later apologized for his remarks. That same year, Rangel turned his strong opinions and racy stories into a memoir, And I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress. The book enjoyed critical success.
Rangel faced numerous ethics allegations in 2008. It was reported that the representative has four apartments in the Lenox Terrace complex in Harlem at below-market rates. The fourth apartment was used as a campaign office, which violated city and state regulations. Rangel later moved his campaign headquarters out of the building, claiming he didn't know he had broken a law. Rangel also received campaign contributions from one of the building's owners.
Further investigation revealed that Rangel failed to report income from the rental of a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic, to which he owes more than $10,000 in back taxes. The House Ethics Committee is also looking tax breaks given to a company that donated $1,000,000 to the City College of New York's school, which is named after Rangel. Although there have been several calls for Rangel to leave his chairmanship on the Ways and Means Committee, he currently refuses to step down.
Rangel now serving his 19th term in the House of Representatives, and is the fourth-longest serving Democrat in the House.
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