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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

A scream of amazement splits the night

Posted Wednesday, November 5 at 12:13 am CT by Kari Huus
Filed under Nashville 207 comments—join the discussion


Tammy Baker reacts upon learning that Barack Obama had beaten John McCain. (Jim Seida / msnbc.com)

A shrill scream issued from a house on Benay Drive right at 10 p.m. The voice belonged to Tammy Baker, who let loose upon learning that Barack Obama had been declared winner of the 2008 presidential election, becoming the first African-American to hold the nation's highest office.

Sitting in her sister Kim Baker’s house in this Opryland suburb, with a cell phone to one ear as the announcement came, she and her friend, Temaka, spent the first few minutes trading “oh my God"s, followed by giddy laughter and more “oh my God”s.

An hour earlier she had been anticipating the victory as Obama turned more states blue. But the verdict came sooner and more decisively than she could have hoped for her candidate. And when the moment came, it was still, somehow, a surprise.

“I am speechless,” she said, but she wasn’t at all. “We have the first black, the first African American -- however you want to say it -- as president of the United States.

“This speaks volumes that people are finally able to look across the color line and elect someone simply on his qualifications. … It’s just … I mean, phew! And it’s not just black and white. It’s black, white, Asian. It’s everybody.”

Tammy and her sister, Kim, then turned to fielding cell phone calls with friends and families. Tammy's daughter, Brittani, 17, and niece, Kaili, wandered out into the livingroom from the bedroom, where they were watching the returns.

“Did we win?” a drowsy but excited Kaili asks.
“This is what it is all about,” says Tammy. “It’s about being here, seeing this with my family.”

Then a call came from the person that Tammy says has inspired her the most.

“Hi momma! Momma can you believe it!?”

After the call, Kim said that their mother was having a bittersweet moment -- thrilled, but regretting that her mother and brother are no longer alive to see this day.

As the initial excitement began to fade, Tammy realized that her fixation on the political process — a hobby for at least two years and an obsession in the last 6-8 months — would be coming to an end.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do next!” she says.

But her delight suggested that she’s not sorry to see what comes next.


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