By JOHN ELIGON
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. knew what his priorities were when he campaigned to become the first congressman to represent a new district centered in Harlem.
“I will represent the Negro people first,” he said during the campaign in 1944. “I will represent, after that, all the other American people.”
In the decades since, the so-called Harlem seat has been held by only two men, Mr. Powell and the man who unseated him in 1970, Representative Charles B. Rangel, each of whom became among the most influential African-American voices in the nation’s capital, representing a neighborhood known as a center of black arts and culture, scholarship and struggle.
“Their lore was that they spoke for black America, they spoke for Harlem, and they spoke for the Harlems all over this country,” said David A. Paterson, the former New York governor and a Harlem native.
But as demographic change has altered the makeup of Upper Manhattan — Harlem has become less black and neighborhoods around it more Hispanic — black politicians are concerned that they might lose this prized pulpit.