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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

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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'I'm a ball of emotions'

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 09:56 pm CT by Bill Dedman.
Filed under Bronx 43 comments—join the discussion

081104electionshaday1Watching the election returns on TV at home in the Bronx, the family of sisters Debra Grant Brown and Ellen Caldwell is "nervous, worried, excited, all of the above," Brown said.

The family has gathered in Brown's living room with their children and friends. First came a dinner of barbecued chicken wings, lima beans and rice. It's not clear how long 3-year-old Nyem Badawri, Ellen's grandson, will stay up, but the rest of the family is in it for the long haul. Debra's daughters are Shaday Brown, one of the students we have followed from Validus Prep, a public school in the Bronx, and Fatimah Hernandez, a special-ed teacher at the school.

As Pennsylvania was called for Sen. Barack Obama by CNN at 8:40 p.m., Shaday started applauding with her cousin Habibah.

"I'm a ball of emotions," Fatimah said.

Long resentments die slowly. There is talk of the election being stolen out from under a black candidate. Or even of Obama, if he wins, not being allowed to run the country.

Continued…

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Ushering in history?

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

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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.

Continued…

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Hollywood Obama party has a Latin theme

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 08:35 pm CT by msnbc.com.
Filed under Field correspondents 4 comments—join the discussion

Hollywood is Barack Obama country.

Obama raised more than $14 million from the entertainment industry on his way to raising $84 million in California -- two-thirds more than he raised in New York.

Tuesday afternoon at the Media Shop, a television and film production facility, Latinos -- an increasingly crucial Democratic bloc -- were putting the finishing touches on an Election Night party, anticipating an Obama win. As people dribbled in, a gigantic television screen on the wall was blasting the early returns, with  most states still "too early to call." But the collective mood was festive. Individually, the party preparers said they were cautiously optimistic, but they were already brimming with pride.

Continued…

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Not even in his lifetime?

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 08:21 pm CT by Bill Dedman.
Filed under Bronx 61 comments—join the discussion

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Edward Grant, 64, with his grandson Nikolas Simmons, 7, after voting at the Bronx County Building Tuesday evening. At left is Barbara Coto, 54, Nikolas' grandmother. (John Makely / msnbc.com)

In the ornate Bronx County Courthouse, under murals of Revolutionary War heroes who fought at Pell's Point in the Bronx, 64-year-old Edward Grant brought his entire family to vote. As a black man who grew up in Harlem and fought in Vietnam, he said he hadn't expected to see a black man win the presidency for "another 20 or 30 years." In other words, "Not in my lifetime."

That's not all. His daughter, 28-year-old Nicole Cote, pointed to her son, 7-year-old Nikolas Simmons, adding, "I wasn't even sure in his lifetime!"

Young Nikolas punched on a video game, racing cars while his mother and grandparents talked. He was wearing his school uniform of white shirt and clip-on tie from Christ the King School in the Bronx. In the mock election at his school, he voted for "Barack Obama," he said brightly, giving the election tally in his school: 135 for Obama, 35 for Sen. John McCain.

Back when Nikolas first heard about Obama being a candidate, his mother recalled, "He said, 'Mommy, Obama's not going to win. He's brown.'"

Continued…

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Obama supporters have hope in Harlem

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 07:28 pm CT by Marty Wolk.
Filed under Field correspondents 3 comments—join the discussion

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Richard Crowder in Harlem (msnbc.com)

Roberto St. Louis isn't old enough to vote, but he’s still doing his part to help put Barack Obama in the White House. The 17-year-old was spending Election Day volunteering at Obama’s Harlem campaign headquarters on at 133rd Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

“My mind is thinking [Obama’s] spirit is so wonderful.  He’s so direct,” Roberto said.  “That’s what this country needs right now.”

Continued…

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