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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.

Correspondent

Field reports from NBC and affiliates

Archives for November 2, 2008 - November 8, 2008

'To get us out of a jam, we trusted a black man'

Posted Wednesday, November 5 at 02:44 pm CT by Bill Dedman
Filed under 277 comments—join the discussion

The election of Barack Obama is historic, but what does it mean?

For some perspective, msnbc.com turned to a panel of historians who have focused on race in America.

You can read all of the historian commentaries by following this link.

Here's an excerpt, from Brown University's Robert O. Self:

"What is most important about Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, is that for the first time in the nation’s history, to get us out of a jam we turned to, and trusted, a black man. And, frankly, who better? For who has worked harder for, invested more in, and believed more passionately in this nation than its black citizens? None. Perhaps it high time that, collectively as a nation, we came to realize that."

Readers are invited to read what the historians have to say, and return here to offer your own comments.

In response to some of the comments here, Prof. Self adds, "Your comments are helpful and appreciated, if a few of them are overstated. All of those who wrote that for them this campaign was not about race, I take your point. Indeed, Obama could not have won if he had run any other campaign than a 'non-racial' one. Further, I agree that history will judge him as one of the most remarkable people to have run for office, regardless of his race. He will be judged, in the end, by what he and the nation accomplish in the next 4 or 8 years, not by the color of his skin."

Continued…

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‘It’s Obama’s time’: An historic night in Harlem

Posted Wednesday, November 5 at 01:49 pm CT by msnbc.com
Filed under Field correspondents 7 comments—join the discussion

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People react to news that Sen. Barack Obama has been elected president in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, N.Y. (Justin Lane / EPA)

More than 1,000 people watching the election results on a JumboTron in Harlem cheered wildly and spilled into the streets as the announcement came that Barack Obama had been elected America's 44th president.

Several people in the multiracial crowd broke down in tears, unable to contain their emotions.You can read more about their sentiments, and learn more about some of Harlem's landmarks, by clicking here.

Continued…

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A night of eloquent emotions

Posted Wednesday, November 5 at 04:00 am CT by msnbc.com
Filed under 282 comments—join the discussion

Three generations of African Americans react to the news of Barack Obama's victory. Msnbc.com reports from New York, Nashville and Seattle.

In one home, news of Barack Obama’s election brought screams of joy and amazement. In another, it was met with stunned silence followed by tears.

Those were the reactions that msnbc.com reporters witnessed when they spent Election Night with two of the three African-American families we profiled last week to launch the Witnessing History report.

Continued…

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In Harlem convenience store, an immigrant enclave

Posted Wednesday, November 5 at 03:34 am CT by msnbc.com
Filed under Field correspondents 19 comments—join the discussion

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African immigrants living in Harlem gather at a convenience store to watch election results. (todayshow.com)

It was no small feat in a small New York City space: About two dozen men crammed themselves into a tiny convenience store on Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem.  The lucky ones nabbed seats on cardboard boxes, while late-comers spilled into the hallway, craning their necks to see the election results on a small TV in the corner.

They had immigrated from all across Africa and become friends while worshipping at the local mosque.  While most are pursuing permanent citizenship, in this historic moment, all of them felt like Americans.

Continued…

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On campus, a night to celebrate

Posted Wednesday, November 5 at 02:56 am CT by msnbc.com
Filed under Field correspondents 8 comments—join the discussion

At some of the nation’s historically black colleges, the emotion was almost overwhelming.

At Spelman College in Atlanta, students were stunned when Sen. Barack Obama was declared the winner shortly after 11 p.m.

For just a moment, a "pinch me is this real" second, students stopped in their tracks.

One senior economics major fell to floor, in disbelief.

It was true. Obama had not won Georgia, but he had WON.

Continued…

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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

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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.

Continued…

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Watching history from Rockefeller Center

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 11:08 pm CT by msnbc.com
Filed under Field correspondents 52 comments—join the discussion

Hundreds of people cheered, cried, hugged each other and jumped for joy at Rockefeller Center’s Democracy Plaza Tuesday as NBC and other networks declared Sen. Barack Obama the projected winner of the presidential election.

Many chanted "Obama! Obama!" as the results were announced shortly after 11 p.m.

"We came out this historic night -- I never thought this was a possibility in my lifetime," said Stephanie Grill.

Continued…

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'We're giving birth to a president'

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 11:05 pm CT by Bill Dedman
Filed under Bronx 149 comments—join the discussion

Ellen Caldwell , far left, reacts to the announcement of Obama’s victory with her twins Habib Caldwell , second from left, and Habibah Caldwell, far right, as well as niece Shaday Brown. (John Makely / msnbc.com)

A last word from the Brown and Caldwell families in the Bronx:

"The anticipation," Ellen Caldwell said moments before the final announcement by NBC News and other networks that Barack Obama was the projected winner of the U.S. presidency. "It's almost like giving birth to a baby. Except we're giving birth to a president."

Continued…

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Historic rally in Chicago

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 10:27 pm CT by msnbc.com
Filed under Field correspondents 4 comments—join the discussion

CHICAGO - Thousands of people are pouring into Chicago's Grant Park, hoping  to witness a historic victory speech from Sen. Barack Obama, who is expected to appear later. An estimated 70,000 people will attend the rally at the park on Lake Michigan.

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Get-out-the-vote surprise: No lines

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 10:14 pm CT by Kari Huus
Filed under Nashville 5 comments—join the discussion

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Steve Turner, center, coordinates volunteers in Nashville. (Jim Seida / msnbc.com)

Just hours before the polls closed, Steve Turner, 25, was still at it — dispatching volunteers to polling places where he anticipated long lines. He loaded water and snacks into car trunks for volunteers and voters waiting in the unseasonably warm weather November sun. A veteran of three elections, he instructed his team to make sure people in line were at the right precinct so they didn’t waste time waiting in the wrong line.

And, he urged volunteers to stand in for voters who had to answer the call of nature.

Continued…

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