A Black Initiative in 2008
Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency of the United
States is one of the most dramatic stories in American
We can call it a Black Initiative, while
remembering that this story means many things to many
It has a special meaning for African Americans,
it has a special meaning for Americans of immigrant
background, it has a special meaning for all of his
supporters in the USA, and it has a special meaning for
all of his supporters around the world.
We have seen various initiatives by Black Americans.
The March on Washington of 1941 was one, to which
President Franklin Roosevelt responded by establishing
Another was the southern-based Freedom
Movement, which led to the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and
1969, and the Voting Rights Act of 1968.
The Black Power
movement, and especially the Black Panther Party,
represented major initiatives, and there were quite
different responses from different segments of American
Three times before 2008 African Americans were
serious presidential candidates on the Democratic ticket:
Shirley Chisolm in 1972, and Jesse Jackson in 1984 and
The presidential campaign of Barak Obama is remarkable
in many ways; he survived the primary election process to
become the party’s major contender; he has a different
kind of Black identity from his predecessors, and he is
very much in the mainstream of the Democratic Party.
finally, his victory in November, 2008.
Obama has told the story of his life and beliefs in
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on
Reclaiming The American Dream
His mother was a
major influence on his life.
Although they were not
political activists, she and her parents always held
liberal attitudes towards different racial and ethnic
When they moved to Honolulu they were not upset
when she married a Black man who was attending the
University of Hawaii.
Born in Hawaii in 1961, his
father, Barack Obama, Sr., was a member of the Luo ethnic
group from Kenya and his mother, Ann Durham, was a White
woman originally from Kansas, where some of her ancestors
had been antislavery activists.
When Obama was born his father was a student of
economics and mathematics at the University of Hawaii.