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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

Bronx Posts

'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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'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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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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Pride after the first time

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 12:24 pm CT by Bill Dedman
Filed under Bronx 1 comments—join the discussion

Validus Prep student Ahmed Hunt, 18, discusses how it felt to vote in this election. (John Makely / msnbc.com)

"It feels good," 18-year-old Ahmed Hunt said after casting his first ballot.

A senior at Validus Preparatory Academy, a public school in the Bronx, Hunt had played Sen. Barack Obama in the school program this year. He said he voted for Obama.

"Everyone should vote," Hunt said. "It feels good to feel like I can make a change."

(See other posts from the Bronx.)

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'We got issues'

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 11:56 am CT by Bill Dedman
Filed under Bronx 54 comments—join the discussion

081104shirtdetailsmall2 "We Got Issues" is a T-shirt created by students at Validus Preparatory Academy in the Bronx, where this year's theme was "the new face of American politics."

Why did the school, with an overwhelmingly minority population, focus so much attention on the election?

"I think young people in general, regardless of race, are really excited about this election," says Principal Brady Smith. "But I do know that there's a power in seeing someone who looks like you in an authority position. So for many of our students to see Barack Obama, who has such a life story, in many ways our students have life stories that parallel his. That kind of connection, you can't manufacture. So I know students that are way more engaged because of that."

Click here for a larger view of the T-shirt.

(Image courtesy of Validus Preparatory Academy)

Continued…

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'The mothers are bringing their sons'

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 11:01 am CT by Bill Dedman
Filed under Bronx 0 comments—join the discussion

People were lined up early at the polling station at Public School 55 in the Bronx.

"I've never seen it like this," said pollworker Lenore Gardner. "When I got here at 20 after 5, they were already out there waiting." The polls opened at 6 a.m.

"The mothers are bringing in their sons," she said. "The girls, the come on their own. But the sons the mothers bring."

(See other posts from the Bronx.)

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Watching from the sidelines

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 05:00 am CT by Bill Dedman
Filed under Bronx 127 comments—join the discussion

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Validus Preparatory student Jaquan Arzu (John Makely / msnbc.com)

Tuesday is going to be a frustrating day for many students of all races, because they aren't old enough to vote.

"People around the world, they know what Nov. 4th is. In Russia they know what Nov. 4th is. I feel, dang, I can't vote in the biggest election that there is," said Jaquan Arzu, 16., a student at Validus Prep, a public school in the Bronx.

Arzu has been participating in months of school activities about the election, reading about the candidates, attending debate nights at New York University. And Tuesday? It's just a day off from school.

Continued…

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A Kodak moment

Posted Monday, November 3 at 05:08 pm CT by Bill Dedman
Filed under Bronx 20 comments—join the discussion

081103studentjournalblog_4 As part of the yearlong election studies at Validus Preparatory Academy, a public school in the Bronx, students have kept election journals.

Here is a page from the journal of senior Evelyn Fabian, a Hillary Clinton supporter, as she comments on the excerpted sermons of Sen. Obama's then-minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Click here for a larger view of the journal page.

(See other posts from the Bronx.)

Continued…

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How students see Obama impact

Posted Monday, November 3 at 03:28 pm CT by Bill Dedman
Filed under Bronx 2 comments—join the discussion

We asked the predominantly Hispanic and African-American students at Validus Preparatory Academy, a public school in the Bronx, to provide written responses to questions about race and the election. This is the school profiled in our article and video here: Obama's story resonates with Bronx students.

The questions: If an African-American man is elected president, will that change race relations in America? Is it a sign of real change? Will it bring about real change? What are your hopes and fears around race and ethnicity for yourself and your family?

Below are selected answers from the students:

I believe there are a lot of people that are still not prepared to accept the fact that what was once considered property may become the president. My fear is that Obama will be killed and harm will be done to his supporters.

Christie Logrono, 16, junior

-----

If an African-American is elected president, I think it would change race relations in America for the worst. It might be a sign of real change or cause mayhem. I don't honestly think African-Americans would know how to take it -- they might start to look down on people. If you wish to start another Civil War elect an African-American with an education.

Eric Caldwell, 17, junior

Continued…

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