The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened to the nation on September 24, 2016. The opening of this museum was a monumental achievement. For example, all African American achievements in the United States have to be assessed in the context of the pre-amended U.S. Constitution, the Fugitive Slave Laws of 1793 & 1850, the Dred Scott Decision of 1857, the Civil War, the end of Reconstruction in 1877, Plessy v. Ferguson1896, lynching, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the recent rash of filmed shootings of innocent African Americans. In short, such monumental achievements were not supposed to happen in America. The original design was intended to prevent such acknowledgement or success. Whereas a great deal of talk today centers on immigration. African Americans are the only people whose ancestors were imported. They were “imported” from Africa. Nevertheless, there on the Washington Mall to usher in the new museum was the first African American President, Barack Obama. Even before President Obama leaves office and sets up his own Presidential Library, he is already enshrined in a museum he helped to dedicate. Given the context of African American history, that is truly amazing. That cannot be overlooked or belittled.
President Obama is currently in a battle to preserve his legacy. We understand it as the 2016 Presidential race. President Obama has stated that his legacy is riding on this election. Can you imagine the first African American President being succeeded by Donald Trump? How could it be that the “Birther in Chief” takes over after the first Black Commander-in Chief? Trump has campaigned on essential trying to overturn everything that President Obama has stood for while in office. The sad part is that some African Americans are trying to help Trump become President. Ironically, Hillary Clinton is the Obama legacy’s “Great White Hope.” Such factors are the reason First Lady Michelle Obama campaigns vigorously for the former First Lady. Such factors are the reason why Bill Clinton campaigns tirelessly for his wife. Despite their differences, all four of these individuals realize the Obama legacy is a good legacy upon which to stand.
Have you ever taken a look in old black and white photos of early Black politicians during the Reconstruction era? Have you ever wondered what their struggles entailed? I can imagine one hundred years from now students perusing an American government e-book wondering what life must have been like for the nation’s first Black President. For forty three presidencies prior to Obama and for countless presidencies after, his will have been the only African American face in the lineup. In another consideration, Hillary Clinton could well be the only female face. Based on how things pan out, we could very well experience sixteen years of American governing without a White male serving as President. Allow me to reiterate. The original design did not intend for such things to happen.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. His birthday was declared a national holiday by law in 1983. It was first observed on January 20, 1986. The King Memorial which is not far from the National African American Museum, was dedicated on October 16, 2011. There to dedicate The King Memorial was the nation’s first Black President, Barack Obama. The twists and turns of history added to the vicissitudes of everyday life sometimes produce intersectionalities that defy expectations. It was a struggle for the King Memorial to be built. It was a struggle for Barack Obama to be elected President. Nevertheless, there both stood. President Obama regularly states that he is where he is because of the broad shoulders and strong backs of those who came before him. Obama is not a preacher. Barack Obama is not a Civil Rights leader. President Obama is not a political activist. He should not be judged as if he were in any of these particular rolls. We know of preachers such as Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. Their leadership has been profound. We know of Civil Rights Leaders such as Congressman John Lewis, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Benjamin Jealous. We also know of activist such Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), Dr. Cornel West, and Angela Davis. Barack Obama is unprecedented. Barack Obama is President.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he will publish a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”
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