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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

Pondering racial ironies

Posted Monday, November 3 at 04:46 pm CT by Mike Stuckey
Filed under Seattle 1 comments—join the discussion


Law professor Henry McGee Jr. in his office at Seattle University. (John Brecher / msnbc.com)

Watching last-minute polls and analyses, Professor Henry McGee Jr. is as confident as ever that Sen. Barack Obama will become the first black president of the United States, but he’s also musing over some ironies around Tuesday’s historic election.

Chatting at lunchtime Monday in a campus office festooned with memorabilia from his own career as a cutting edge African-American in U.S. academia, McGee pointed to a news story he had just read. Despite predictions of a sizable Obama victory, “the majority of white folks in the United States will vote for John McCain,” said McGee. “I had never thought about that.”

Obama “has to have black votes to win and the irony is he did not campaign as a candidate who is addressing the race issue,” said McGee, 75, a law professor at Seattle University and the first African-American to win tenure at the Jesuit institution. “Blacks flocked to him, but he ran as a post-racial candidate.”

McGee believes that despite Obama’s skills as a campaigner and a platform that appeals to many voters, the Illinois senator would not be poised to capture the White House were it not for additional circumstances. “Palin plus the recession is what I think will elect him,” said McGee, referring to McCain’s choice of the Alaska governor as his running mate and the turmoil in U.S. financial markets.

Should McCain win, “I don’t think I will despair,” McGee said, but if Obama loses, “it will tell us a lot about the United States” and the state of race relations.

However, McGee, who plans to attend a party Tuesday night, expects it will be a celebration, not a wake. “They’re talking about over 400 electoral votes,” he said.

Read previous story: Elders in awe, but on edge


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