Powell said he didn't fully grasp the civil rights upheaval happening during the early 1960s until he returned from Vietnam. His wife, Alma, didn't share the developments with him from their home in Birmingham, Ala., and his service blocked him from engaging in the political upheaval.
He said the civil rights era helped blacks but more needs to be done.
"A lot has been accomplished, and we should be so proud of our accomplishments," he said. "But at the same time, that mirror should show us that there are still problems in this country, that there is still racial bias that still exists in certain parts of our country."
Powell spoke with CBS' "Face the Nation."