FEATURE OF THE MONTH
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States
Each month, the editors of the Oxford African American Studies Center provide insights into black history and culture, showing ways in which the past and present interact by offering socially and historically relevant short articles, picture essays, and links that will guide the reader interested in knowing more. This month's feature looks at the life of Barack Obama, from his birth to his election as president of the United States.
On 4 November 2008, Barack Hussein Obama, on a platform of government reform, bipartisanship, and national unity, was elected the first African American president in the history of the United States. A number of candidates had tried before him, including Shirley Chisholm in 1972 and Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988. Neither came close to winning their party's nomination much less the national election. In fact, up until a few months before Obama's victory over the Republican candidate, John McCain, many still believed it impossible for an African American to be elected president.
Obama was born into an era of violence, revolution, and change. When he was two, Martin Luther King Jr. declared, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." It was not until Obama was four years old that African Americans finally were free to vote everywhere in the United States. Forty-three years later over 66 million people cast their vote for the "skinny kid with a funny name." This month's feature looks at Obama's story—one that is as mythic as any novelist could wish, one that encompasses the world as well as the heart of both black and white America.View photo essay
The following articles have been selected to help guide readers who want to learn more about the life of Barack Obama. Also, see these past editorials by Steven Niven and Paul Finkelman on Obama's candidacy and election to the presidency. (Access to the following articles is available only to subscribers.)
Primary Source Documents