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Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
'Sweet Thunder' by Wil Haygood
'Sweet Thunder' by Wil Haygood

When I was a young boxing writer, I once was invited to watch historic fight films with a small group that included Sugar Ray Robinson, by then long retired from the ring. Suffice to say, I was -- by several orders of magnitude -- the most ignorant person in the room, but the deference our companions paid even Robinson's briefest comment was striking. For my part, I recall being struck by the unexpected sophistication -- even delicacy -- of his descriptive vocabulary, which was studded with phrases borrowed from the worlds of dance and music, mainly jazz, and framed with a kind of poetic precision. Reading Wil Haygood's thoroughly marvelous new biography, "Sweet Thunder:...

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