20-08 - XX A Black Initiative in 2008 Barack Obamas rise to...

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XX. 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 history. We can call it a Black Initiative, while remembering that this story means many things to many people. 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 the FEPC. 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 society. Three times before 2008 African Americans were serious presidential candidates on the Democratic ticket: Shirley Chisolm in 1972, and Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988. 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. And finally, his victory in November, 2008. Obama has told the story of his life and beliefs in two books: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Remembrance (1997), and The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming The American Dream (2007) 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 groups. 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.
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Later, he was accepted into the Ph.D. program in economics at Harvard University and during this time his relationship with Barack’s mother became strained. The couple divorced, and when Barack, Sr. completed his studies at Harvard he returned to Kenya. Obama only saw his father as a teenager on one brief visit to Hawaii, and he died in a car accident in Kenya in 1982, when Obama was a student at Columbia University. He tells us in Dreams from My Father that despite the estrangement, his mother always taught him to respect his father’s achievements.
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