Congratulations Senator Obama

If you had asked me last year at this time whether an African American could be nominated by either the Republican or Democratic parties for the presidency I would have said you are crazy. It looks like that by the end of the evening the Democratic Party will have accomplished just that.  At the same time it is easy to imagine the primary process taking a slightly different turn with the result being the first female presidential candidate – a significant achievement in its own right. 

Regardless of your political affiliation or feelings about how Obama has handled the campaign and the many controversial moments, you should feel proud as an American that we are now at a point in our nation's history where such an outcome is possible.  The historian in me can't help but place this in historical context.  Two African Americans served in the U.S. Senate during Reconstruction, both representing the state of Mississippi.  The first, Hiram Revels was elected in 1870 and sat in Jefferson Davis's old seat while Blanche K. Bruce, a former slave, was elected in 1875.  Since then, only three African-Americans–Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts (1967-1978), Carol Moseley Braun (1993-1998) and Barack Obama (2004-)–have held seats in the Senate.  In the House of Representatives, 121 African Americans have served since 1868.  On the state level only one African American served as governor in Louisiana during the winter of 1872-73 before Douglas Wilder of Virginia was elected in 1989.

This nation is turning an important corner tonight and I couldn't be prouder.  As of the writing of this post, Obama is only 11 delegates shy of the nomination.  Finally, we are one step closer to getting rid of the current occupant of the White House.


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11 comments… add one
  • Cecelia Nov 4, 2008 @ 16:53

    Well, it is true that Obama is half white, but it would be fair to say that Obama is the blackest (skin color wise) US President we will have ever had. Appearance wise, he is a black man just as appearance wise I am a white woman (I have Spanish and Native American blood but appearance wise it’s not obvious and I check off the little caucasion box unless I’m feeling fiesty and then I check off the Native one or all that apply). Either way, a black man is what most see and percieve Obama as, and it is a black man that the majority of this country (I believe anyway) are electing. It’s time for change and I believe Obama will do an excellent job inspiring us all to change for the better. I don’t think it’s any less of an accomplishment for this man, whom was born into a typical family (ie, he wasn’t born into extraordinary advantage at least by this countries standards).

    Anyway, I too am so proud and truly hope that this is a sign that our people can finally begin to heal from our past and become more unified. I’m 36 and this is actually the proudest day of my life as a US Citizen. I keep tearing up and crying off and on (happy tears) because I’m so moved by this election. It’s high time that black Citizens can tell their children that even the highest office in the land is possible for them and hopefully soon we’ll be able to say the same to our daughters.

    And this is happening in our lives! It’s our history! Lets just hope that this is a positive step foward and that our President is well protected. I do want to say that I am so very proud of Obama and my black fellow Americans for what you all have overcome.

  • John Maass Jun 9, 2008 @ 10:04

    There is a related on-line piece on Obama’s self-identification as black in the London INDEPENDENT, here:

    It starts: “Barack Obama is not black. He is the first mixed-race politician ever to get this far in the onerous and arduously testing American electoral process. In the US, under an over-arching American patriotism, separate ethnic categories are clearly labelled and race ghettoes (real or imagined) are commonplace. In such a severely organised society, Obama’s achievements are all the more astounding since he fits neatly nowhere.”

  • Kevin Levin Jun 4, 2008 @ 18:13

    Lisa, — At first I wasn’t sure whether the SCV guy was white or black, but I assume he was indeed white. I agree that there are plenty of well-intentioned SCV members. Many no doubt read the right literature while others just don’t know any better. My comments should always be read as commentary on the organization rather than as an indictment of every SCV member.

    And thanks for reminding me of Obama clinching the nomination on Jeff’s b-day.

  • Lisa Jun 4, 2008 @ 17:51


    I just can’t get over an SCV member supporting Obama. It just flys in the face of everything I know about the SCV. It did remind me though that many members have varying opinions and they don’t always agree. Sometimes I forget that. Many of them are good guys just rather misguided. Anyhow, sorry to get off topic.

    I have had some of the same thoughts mentioned above. It’s almost like we’re finally moving forward, yet remnants of the past still remain (i.e. Obama’s racial classification), although they are now a help instead of a hindrance.

    Personally, I’ll be glad for the day when we don’t have to worry about a candidate’s skin color but given our history I definitely understand why it’s important. Honestly, I’m still not sure who I will support, however part of me wants to see Obama get elected just for the historical significance, which really isn’t a good reason to support a candidate. There’s not a doubt in my mind Obama will be the next president regardless.

    Did anyone else catch the irony that Obama secured the nomination yesterday which happened to be the 200th b-day of Jefferson Davis? Oh wait, that’s right, everyone forgot….

  • Kevin Levin Jun 4, 2008 @ 13:34

    I think our tendency to classify those of a mixed-race background as black goes back to colonial times. You may want to read the lest section of Edmund Morgan’s _American Slavery, American Freedom_, which does an excellent job of showing how the racial line was reinforced through laws against miscegenation, etc. As you know the classification of the races changed quite a bit depending on time and place, but I think you’ve essentially got it right.

    Now that I think about it, however, it is much easier for me to picture Obama with the black side of his family than with his white relatives. Perhaps it is a reflection of how deeply ingrained our racial classifications are in our thinking about such issues. I sometimes wonder whether he would have done better among middle class whites if he had emphasized his white side of the family more in commercials and in speeches. Would it have been a waste of time given our tendencies? I don’t know.

  • John Maass Jun 4, 2008 @ 13:15

    My question was/is more along the lines of “how come if you are part black, you’re considered all black?” Did Obama not grow up with his white mother, rather than his black father?

    Does this go back to the racial classifications in the U.S., wherein if you had one drop of African blood, you weren’t white?

  • Kevin Levin Jun 4, 2008 @ 13:12

    Lisa, — It blows your mind because Obama is black or the SCV dude?

    John, — It’s an interesting question. I think it’s pretty clear from reading his books that Obama knows who he is. That said, it seems to me that history is the decisive determining factor. The reason his nomination is significant is because he is considered to be black and would have been limited along racial lines had he been born in the not too distant past.

    Larry, — Well, Hillary is playing her cards. I thought Terry McCullife’s introduction was even more bizarre: “Here is your next President of the United States.”

  • Larry Cebula Jun 4, 2008 @ 11:12

    A glorious day for our nation. I was flying yesterday from Minnesota to Missouri and I wore my Obama ’08 shirt and I got a lot of positive comments. Though more so in Minnesota, come to think of it!

    The only fly in the ointment is that Hillary is still there. She gave a speech yesterday that said “Having lost the nomination I will ask my supporters what to do next?” Um…concede?

  • John Maass Jun 4, 2008 @ 6:45

    Interesting that we say an African-American has won the nomination, but isn’t he half white? How do we/he decide what he is, or should we even do that?

  • Andy Jun 4, 2008 @ 5:50

    Yes, it’s a true milestone in US politics…

  • Lisa Jun 3, 2008 @ 22:11


    I just want you to know I met an SCV member this weekend who is a diehard Obama supporter. This has completely blown my mind, and not just because he’s black either. I wanted to ask more questions but figured I’d better be a good girl.

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