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This American Moment
The crowd waves U.S. flags as it is announced on television that Barack Obama has been elected the President of the United States at his election night party at Grant Park in Chicago, Tuesday night, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The crowd at Grant Park in Chicago waves flags as it is announced that Barack Obama has been elected the President of the United States, Tuesday night, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP)

History was all over the vote count last night, as Barack Obama — Democrat, first-term senator, African-American son of a Kenyan father and Kansan mother — was elected 44th president of the United States.

In any country on Earth, such a rise would be stunning. In America, with its deep history of slavery, racial strife and race-tarred politics, it is for many astounding. And it has happened.

It was just 40 years ago that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last speech in Memphis. On April 3, 1968, King said he’d seen the potential for equal rights in the United States: “I may not get there with you,” he said. But the Promised Land would come.

Yesterday’s election of Barack Obama may not be the Promised Land. But it is a giant moment in America’s singular national story.

This hour, On Point: Obama’s victory, in the context of history.

You can join the conversation. How would you describe, for the history books, what happened yesterday at the polls? What does it mean for America’s national story?

Guests:

Joining us from Stanford, California, is David M. Kennedy, professor of history at Stanford University. His many books include the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945” and the bestselling textbook “The American Pageant: A History of the Republic.”

And from Rutgers University in New Jersey, we welcome Nell Irvin Painter, professor emerita of history at Princeton University. She is a leading scholar of the experiences of African-Americans, women and the working class. Her many books include “Southern History Across the Color Line,” “Creating Black Americans,” and “Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol.”

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