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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

Ushering in history?

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 09:29 pm CT by Mike Stuckey
Filed under Seattle 8 comments—join the discussion


Rick Graham and Rosemary Irvin wave Obama signs at traffic on Interstate 5 in Seattle. (John Brecher / msnbc.com)

On a day they hoped would end in history being made by U.S. voters, Rosemary Irvin and Rick Graham huddled in the chilly air high above traffic-choked Interstate 5 and made a little history of their own.

Strangers to each other until they met in the noon hour on an overpass in the city’s University District, the pair of graying but well-preserved baby boomers joined forces to take direct political action for the first time in either of their lives.

Three hours later, with the setting sun barely peeking through the heavy cloud cover, they were still waving their blue-and-white Obama-Biden signs at the passing, often honking, motorists below.

“I never thought I would be standing on an overpass waving a sign,” said Irvin, 57, an attorney.

While Irvin has given some thought to the historical significance of a black U.S. president, she is quick to say “that’s only one aspect of it.” Sure, the election of Sen. Barack Obama would break the ultimate race barrier, she said, and his perspectives and experiences as the son of a black African father and white American mother can only help him understand and negotiate many complex issues.

More important to Irvin, however, is Obama’s expertise in constitutional law and awareness of the “overexpansion of the powers of the executive” that she believes President Bush has undertaken. “I’m terrified of more of the same, terrified of the direction Bush and Cheney have taken the country,” she said.

Obama has “demonstrated a willingness to be true to his own principles,” she added. “He loves America and he wants to do a good job for all Americans.”


Graham’s sign-waving capped an emotional election year for the 61-year-old trade magazine writer who started out firmly in the Hillary Clinton camp. After he saw Obama’s speech on race in the wake of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, “I sat in front of my TV and I cried,” he said. “I’ve never even been affected by anything any politician ever said until he made that speech.”

Graham said U.S. race relations are especially important to him because “it’s the old saying -- united we stand and divided we fall. We’ve got to get over this race thing once and for all. … If we can elect Obama, we can say to black people in this country, ‘It’s possible.’”

The new friends said they planned to wave their signs “until we freeze,” Irvin said.

Although they had heard plenty of predictions that Obama would be victorious, they were taking nothing for granted.

“I don’t know what I’ll do if he loses,” said Graham, a Vietnam vet who said he respects Sen. John McCain’s military service but doesn’t find it much of a presidential qualification. “I’ve always loved this country, but it would be hard for me to understand how the majority of people could turn their backs on common sense,” he said.


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