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Annette John-Hall: As Obama rises, Jim Crow falls

As Barack Obama made history Tuesday night, I sat speechless, overwhelmed. The lump in my throat is still there and isn't likely to go away anytime soon.

As Barack Obama made history Tuesday night, I sat speechless, overwhelmed.

The lump in my throat is still there and isn't likely to go away anytime soon.

Forty-three years after the Voting Rights Act gave African Americans once and for all the unencumbered right to vote, we have the first black nominee of a major party, a black man with a very real shot of becoming president of the United States.

As Obama thanked his white grandmother for making him the man he is today - "This is for her" - my thoughts and emotions turned to my own family.

This one's for you, Daddy, for all those summers you had to drive exhausted on family vacations through the South because hotels from Dallas to New Orleans refused to take a black man and his family in for the night.

And for my husband, a 6-foot-2 lover of tailored suits and luxury cars who has been stopped for DWB (driving while black) in every state we've lived in.

And for my children and future grandchildren, who can look at Barack Obama and say, "I can be that, too."

Or even look at Michelle and her two daughters and say, "Maybe I can live there, too." Once the White House is no longer only for whites.

I wrote before that my parents used to tell us we could be president some day, as we told our own children. But none of us really ever believed it - until now.

If I never thought this would happen in my lifetime, those who have lived longer than me, and endured the struggle, sure didn't think so, either.

"I'm having me a hallelujah good time," declared former City Councilwoman Augusta Clark, 76, yesterday. "Having lived through Jim Crow, to see this young man achieve this . . . is so gratifying.

"It makes me want to position myself correctly and ask the Lord, 'Did I thank you enough yet?' "

After months of campaign covenants, callous comments, mangled words, race and gender gaffes, pastor problems, Bill imbroglios, feminist fury and fuzzy math, the celestial choir has finally - mercifully - sung.

Do you hear it, Hillary?

Troubled skies

Try as she did Tuesday to rain on this historic moment, she succeeded only in diminishing the magnitude - and awe - of her own unprecedented quest.

The dark cloud of Hurricane Hillary loomed heavy yesterday - we didn't know which way her delusional wind was blowing - until it was reported that she was likely to concede Saturday.

But generations from now, history books won't focus on Clinton's unwillingness to concede or Obama's superdelegate count. They will point to Barack and Hillary as the trailblazers who competed in a barrier-breaking election.

Still, I can't shake the feeling that something will happen to undermine Obama's chances, thoughts I dare not say out loud.

And then there's the forthcoming Fear Factor strategy, which President Bush's - and now John McCain's - bunch will do their very best to execute on their way to making Obama seem too different, even un-American.

But I'm banking on our country's being better than that.

Because from the farmlands of Iowa to the big sky of Montana, much-maligned white voters have called on their better selves and voted for the better choice.

For that, I say thank you, White America.

Because for all the demographic slicing, dicing and division this campaign has generated, it was white voters who made Obama a legitimate force to be reckoned with in Iowa against Clinton, the 20-point favorite.

And white voters who instilled faith in a cynical black electorate that was afraid to get its hopes too high, for good reason, but ultimately made sure Barack wouldn't suffer a fatal fall.

And amid pundit talk of Obama's still not being able to capture the white vote, it was a mostly white crowd in Minnesota that cheered his accomplishment as he made his electrifying, unifying speech to declare his nomination.

It almost seems divinely ordered that Obama will receive the party's nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Aug. 28 - 45 years to the day that Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech during the historic March on Washington.

And how Dr. King's words are prophetic to Obama's own faith in America. Dr. King told the integrated crowd hungering for change that whites "have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone."

Walking together toward a more perfect union.