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On November 4, America elected the first black president in its history. Born of a Kenyan father and a white American mother, Barack Hussein Obama is not a typical African-American with a personal history rooted in slavery and segregation. However, the black community voted en masse for “their” president, from the black neighborhoods of New York’s Harlem to Venice Beach and Los Angeles.
It all began in January 2008, with an Obama victory in the first national caucuses in Iowa, a primarily white state. That early win allowed him to emerge as a candidate who could bridge the gaps between different communities.
It was at then that real hope emerged within the nation’s black community. Support groups sprang up around the country, swelling the ranks of the “Obamamaniacs” and serving as evidence that the United States was seeing the dawn of a new era. Even in New York, a traditional stronghold of Hillary Clinton, the front-running candidate defeated in gruelling Democratic primaries, black Americans were ready to vote for the man with the foreign name but who resembled them more than any other candidate.
Yet, even after Obama was nominated at the Democratic Convention, the black community had persistent fears that the country’s white population would hesitate once in the polling booth. History has contradicted these fears, for it was with votes from all the nation’s communities that Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States.
Emmanuel Saint-Martin and Thierry Vivier, special correspondents for France 24, interviewed members of the black communities in Harlem and Los Angeles in the days leading up to this historic election day.