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About Witnessing History

As Barack Obama became the first black candidate to win the nation’s highest elected office, msnbc.com was on hand to document the thoughts and emotions of members of three generations of African-Americans. Click on the photos below to read a specific thread, or on the NBC logo to read field reports on the role of race in the election. Or you can scan the posts at right to read them in chronological order.

Validus Prep students

Students at Validus Prep, the Bronx, N.Y.

Tammy Baker

Tammy Baker, office worker, Nashville, Tenn.

Henry McGee Jr.

Henry McGee Jr., law professor, Seattle, Wa.


Field reports from NBC and affiliates

This 'redneck' voted Obama

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 06:54 pm CT by Kari Huus
Filed under Nashville 45 comments—join the discussion


Bobbi Hamilton has been changing tires in Nashville for 53 years. (Jim Seida / msnbc.com)

Bobbi Hamilton has been changing tires in this part of the city since he was 11 years old, so he knows Nashville. Now, at 65, he is predicting something he could not have imagined as a younger man—that the state of Tennessee will support an African-American, Barack Obama, for president.

“Ten or 15 years ago the state wouldn’t vote for a woman or a black,” he says. “But times change, and you gotta change with them.”

Granted, Hamilton’s view is based on a personal, not-so-scientific survey. And it may also be skewed by his own large family—10 siblings and six children who all voted for the Democratic candidate this time around, including his previously Republican sisters. 

But the gregarious proprietor of Bobbi’s Tire Service, Hamilton says he also sees Obama’s popularity where he lives, in Ashland City, Tenn., about 30 miles outside of Nashville.  And in his travels driving cars in the demolition derby--his passion--he swears he hasn’t met a single person on the circuit who is not leaning toward Obama.

(As an aside, demolition derby draws a totally different demographic than the Nascar crowd, famous for its Republican bent. “Those people are all rich,” he says. “They don’t have anything to worry about, so they don’t care.”)

Hamilton is a self-professed “redneck”—but not in the old-fashioned sense that suggests racism. By his definition, the title fits because he’s a guy who quit school at 11, played rough, did what he wants and educated himself. Now, as a small businessman, Hamilton sees Obama as the man who can tackle the economic mess, just for starters.

On the issue of race, Hamilton concedes it could still be a factor for some in this state, but not for this redneck.

“A man’s a man,” he says simply, as he heads off for a night of bowling.


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