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Thursday, November 6, 2008

All Hail Commander-in-Chief Obama!!

President Obama

Another long campaign comes to an end. We now know what we may have been unsure of yesterday. The most powerful man in the world is a Black man! The Obamas will soon be occupying the White House, not as a butler and maid, but as the residents of the house.

This is a significant occurrence in American history, but not like some of us may think. "Race" has been a significant issue during this run for the White House. However, this is not the first time an African American has occupied the White House!! According to J.A. Rogers, their have been 4-5 African American presidents already! Now, just in case you missed this lesson during American history class I'll give you a quick recap.

In 1963 Attorney-General Robert Kennedy and Senator Jacob Javits stated:

"there might be a Negro President in the next thirty or forty years, FACT, most outspoken of the big magazines, replied there was already one and in its January-February, 1964 issue had an article 'America's First Negro President.' It named Warren G. Harding as the one and had affidavits from elderly whites who knew the Harding family.

But before Harding three other Presidents had been loudly proclaimed by white people as being of Negro ancestry . . . . Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln."

J. A. Rogers published a small booklet entitled "The Five Negro Presidents: according to what white people said they were" in 1965, offers up more evidence to back up these claims. Oftentimes, these claims of the first Black this and the first Black that is not only overblown, but is actually incorrect.

Ask anyone who the first African American in professional baseball was and they'll readily cite Jackie Robinson. When were the first "Freedom Rides?" Of course, everyone knows they occurred in the 1960's. Who was the first Black Astronaut? That's an easy one, Guion Bluford. However, when we go back and check the records we find that Moses "Fleetwood" Walker preceded Jackie Robinson by about 50 years. The first "Freedom Rides?" Well, as a matter of fact my cousin's husband went on the "Journey of Reconciliation," with Bayard Rutsin and other members of CORE in 1948. This was a test of an interstate transportation law enacted by President Truman outlawing segregation in interstate transportation. Last, but not least, Guion Bluford, one of our best and our brightest was preceded by Capt. Edward J. Dwight, Jr. who entered an astronaut training program in the early 60's.

As you can see from this short list, it can be a lot more difficult to nail down some of these so-called firsts than is apparent at first glance. I have purposely left a lot unsaid. My feeling is that in order to really know something it's best if you find it out for yourself. I will be returning to this topic as we continue to cover the story of Barack Obama, which has become decidedly presidential at this point.

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