My daughters Afiya and Eden can say, "I remember when Barack Obama became the first African American candidate nominated by a major party. We were living in the Cayman Islands watching it on television with our parents... really proud of the U.S."
I heard David Gergen say, "I'm from North Carolina. Barack Obama won that state with large margins. Twenty-five years ago... even ten years ago... that was unthinkable." I'm from N.C., too. I thought it was unthinkable last year.
But here we are.
Where are we exactly?
I don't think we know. But it's a different place than the one we were in two weeks ago or two decades ago. It's a completely unanticipated development--no longer arrested.
Here's one timeline:
1619--the first African slaves arrive at Jamestown, Va
Virginia, 1662 - “Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishmen upon a Negro shall be slave or Free, Be it therefore enacted and declared by this present Grand assembly, that all children born in this country shall be held bond or free only According to the condition of the mother."
Maryland, 1664 - “That whatsoever free-born [English] woman shall intermarry with any slave [...] shall serve the master of such slave during the life of her husband; and that all the issue of such free-born women, so married shall be slaves as their fathers were.”
Virginia, 1667 - “Act III. Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children that are slaves by birth [...] should by virtue of their baptism be made free, it is enacted that baptism does not alter the condition to the person as to his bondage or freedom; masters freed from this doubt may more carefully propagate Christianity by permitting slaves to be admitted to that sacrament.”
Virginia, 1682 - “Act I. It is enacted that all servants [...] which shall be imported into this country either by sea or by land, whether Negroes, Moors [Muslim North Africans], mulattoes or Indians who and whose parentage and native countries are not Christian at the time of their first purchase by some Christian [...] and all Indians, which shall be sold by our neighboring Indians, or any other trafficking with us for slaves, are hereby adjudged, deemed and taken to be slaves to all intents and purposes any law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.”
1712--New York Revolt
1739--The Stono Rebellion in South Carolina
1741--New York Slave Insurrection of 1741
1800--Gabriel's Rebellion in Virginia
1808--the slave trade is abolished in the U.S.
1811--Louisiana Territory Slave Rebellion, led by Charles Deslondes
1815--George Boxley Rebellion in Virginia
1822--Denmark Vesey Uprising in South Carolina ()
1831--Nat Turner's Rebellion in Virginia
1839--The Amistad Seizure on a Spanish ship
1857--Dred Scott decision, decided 7-2, held that a slave did not become free when taken into a free state; Congress could not bar slavery from a territory; and blacks could not be citizens. Furthermore, a state could not bar slave owners from bringing slaves into that state.
1861--American Civil War begins
1863--Emancipation Proclamation delivered on January 1
1865--Emancipation following American Civil War, commonly celebrated on June 19th (Juneteenth); final ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in December
1870--Hiram Rhodes Revels became the first black member of the Senate and thereby also the first black member of the Congress.
1874--rise in white paramilitary organizations, such as the White League and Red Shirts, whose political aim was to turn out the Republicans. They also disrupted organizing and terrorized blacks to bar them from the polls. From 1873 to 1877, conservative white Democrats (calling themselves "Redeemers") regained power in state elections throughout the former Confederacy.
1877--President Rutherford Hayes withdrew federal troops from the South, causing the collapse of the remaining three Republican state governments. Through the enactment of disfranchising statutes and constitutions, and extralegal means, the white Democrats subsequently removed most blacks and hundreds of thousands of poor whites from voter rolls in every Southern state. White Democrats established one-party rule and enforced a system of racial segregation that continued throughout the South into the 1960s.
1876-1965--Jim Crow laws enforce de jure segregation with "separate but equal" status for blacks and whites.
1960-1980--Civil Rights Movement
1954--Brown v. Board of Education overturned earlier rulings going back to Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, by declaring that state laws that established separate public schools for black and white students denied black children equal educational opportunities. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Warren Court's unanimous (9-0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." As a result, de jure racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
1964--the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark legislation in the United States that outlawed segregation in the U.S. schools and public places.
1965--Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African-Americans in the United States.
Tonight--Barack Husein Obama, as "white" as he is "black," became the first "black" Presidential nominee of a major political party in United States history.
It's been a long road. And many have cried, "How long, Lord?" But it's undeniable that the sovereign hand of God has moved to change things radically.
One other thing seems certain: The patronizing political strategy of promising token positions with little influence to some African American leaders in exchange for delivering the black vote is out the window. If a man with brown skin can be President, who needs political fool's gold and worthless trinkets? If a man with brown skin can run a successful candidacy not predicated upon "race," not "race" baiting, not settling for the conventional wisdom that insists upon race-based coalitions, then the rules for old-styled politics are over.
Perhaps there will be a Willie Horton pulled out of someone's political tool box. But for tonight, everything is potentially different.
Never thought I'd see the day.