The Rev. Al Sharpton, who came to prominence as an imposing figure in a track suit, shouting indignantly at the powerful, stood quietly on a stage last month at the Four Seasons restaurant, his now slender frame wrapped in a finely tailored suit, as men in power lined up to exclaim their admiration for him.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hailed him as a civil rights icon. President Obama sent an aide to read a message commending Mr. Sharpton’s “dedication to the righteous cause of perfecting our union.” Major corporations sponsored the lavish affair.
It was billed as a “party for a cause,” in honor of Mr. Sharpton’s 60th birthday. But more than a birthday celebration, or a fund-raiser for his nonprofit advocacy group National Action Network, the event in Manhattan seemed to mark the completion of Mr. Sharpton’s decades of transition from consummate outsider to improbable insider.
“I’ve been able to reach from the streets to the suites,” he said that night.