The 1970s: a decade of progress

Merdies Hayes | 2/1/2012, 5 p.m.

Among Bradley's accomplishments are the aforementioned downtown skyline; conceptualization/construction of the Metro railway; new trade policies and business agreements within the Pacific Rim, which became a national model and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Tom Bradley died in 1998 at age 80.

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Barbara Jordan in the early 1970s became the first African American woman from the South to serve in the United States House of Representatives. She represented Houston, Texas, and touched countless lives during her years in government and later as a professor at the Lyndon Johnson School of Public Policy in Austin.

Jordan gained national prominence as a member of the Watergate committee that in 1973 drafted two articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. Both as a state senator and a congresswoman, Jordan sponsored bills that championed the poor, the disadvantaged and people of color. On Capitol Hill, she sponsored legislation to broaden the Voting Rights Act to cover Latinos in Texas and other southwestern states. She also worked to extend that law's authority to those states where minorities had been denied the right to vote and had their rights restricted by unfair registration practices (e.g.. requirements to show a state-issued driver's license, photo ID or take a literacy test).

Impressed with her eloquence and rising stature within the party, the Democrats selected her to deliver the keynote address at the 1976 national convention. She was the first woman and first African American to do so, and that speech, political theorists attest, helped Jimmy Carter win the presidency by virtue of one of the largest Black turnouts for a national election.

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Longtime Rep. John Conyers (although elected in the 1960s, produced some of his most significant work in the 1970s) has amassed one of Capitol Hill's most impressive legislative records. Among the bills authored and sponsored by the Michigan democrat in the late 1970s and 1980s, are the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Act, the Alcohol Warning Label Act, the National Voter Registration Act and the Hate Crime Statistics Act. Conyers was the first Black Democratic leader of the House Judiciary Committee and attached crucial civil rights measures to the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill, including the Racial Justice Act and the Police Accountability Act.

In the 1990s, Conyers generated the Justice Department's national study on police brutality and conducted hearings in several cities on police violence, racially motivated violence, sentencing (particularly the sentencing guidelines regarding "crack" cocaine possession in the inner city and power cocaine in the suburbs) white-collar crime and other criminal justice matters.

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Charles Rangel is a veteran Black congressman who has represented Harlem, N.Y., since 1971, serving the same community as did Adam Clayton Powell. Like Powell, Rangel has worked on behalf of the nation's oldest, most revered Black community, particularly in improving educational opportunities and facilities as well as for the dismantling of old, vermin-infested public housing in favor of new multi-use residential/retail developments. Today the "Village of Harlem" is one of the most refurbished, gentrified communities in the nation, so much so that former President Bill Clinton has his office there. Rangel also came to national prominence as a member of the Watergate committee and received daily television exposure as he helped "peel back" the layers of lies and deceit in the Nixon Administration.