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Spring 1996

Colin Powell’s 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 helped me place Powell’s missing will to power in a context that reveals something larger about the character of key segments of today’s black bourgeoisie: a weak power-seeking impulse.

Powell embodies a set of character traits first described by Franklin Frazier 43 years ago in his Black Bourgeoisie. For Frazier, the black elite self-image revolved around a “form-deferring persona,” an intense…

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