WASHINGTON (NNPA) – After a fierce fight of two years to change the course of history, U. S. Senator Barack Obama has been elected the first African American president of the United States.
His win culminates an American history that expands from Black slavery to Jim Crow to a modern day civil rights movement still marked by institutional racism.
"America is in the process and has taken the first step of turning from darkness unto light, turning from war unto peace, turning from exploitation of the poor by the powerful to equal opportunity and economic justice," said civil rights icon the Rev. Joseph Lowery in an interview. "It's a great moment for America."
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, if you're still wondering if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, if you still question the power of our Democracy, tonight is your answer," Obama began his victory speech before a screaming Chicago crowd of more than 250,000. "It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches and other places like I've never seen, people who waited three hours, four hours, many for the first time in their lives because they believed that this time…That their voices could be that difference."
He recalled his campaign strategy, which involved connecting people from all walks of life from both traditionally Democratic and Republican states.
"It was spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Native-American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states, we are and always will be the Unites States of America," he said to a multiracial crowd, many members of whom were visibly weeping.
Obama graciously congratulated Republican Sen. John McCain for his hard fight in a tone that caused the audience to cheer.
In contrast, McCain had to shush an audience who booed when he congratulated Obama in his concession speech. Still McCain graciously congratulated Obama and even paid homage to the Black community for its victory.
"He managed to do so much by inspiring the hopes of some millions of Americans who once wrongly believed they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president," McCain said. "It is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving. This is an historic election. I recognize the special significance it has for African Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight."
The son of a Kenyan man and a White woman from Kansas, Obama initially received a slow reception from Black voters.
In January and February of 2007, an ABC News-Washington Post poll showed his Democratic primary opponent Hillary Clinton at 40 points higher than Obama among African Americans who had been asked their preference.
An earlier poll in December of 2006 showed that 65 percent of Whites to only 54 percent of Blacks thought America would be willing to elect a Black president.
"A lot of Black people, especially in the South, really didn't think that a Black candidate could be elected president," says David Bositis, a specialist on Black electoral politics at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Adding to the Black support for Clinton was the popularity of her husband, former President Clinton.