African American group in South Minneapolis watch election returns and react to Barack Obama's election to the presidency

Programs & Series | MPR News Feature | Topics | Politics | Types | Reports | Interviews | Grants | Legacy Project Remote Work (2020-2021) | People | Josie Johnson | Special Collections | Black life in Minnesota |
Listen: African American group who gathered to watch election returns react to Barack Obama's election to the presidency

MPR Brandt Williams reports on local reaction to Obama’s election to become President of the United States.

A group of black Democrats gathered in a South Minneapolis restaurant on election night to watch the returns and cheer on local black candidates. But the main event was the race between presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. By the end of the night, they all saw what many thought they'd never see in their lifetimes; an African American elected to the highest office in the country.


text | pdf |

BRANDT WILLIAMS: Before the final votes were tallied, the mood at the Favor Café on Lake Street was festive, yet a little reserved. The multigenerational group of mostly black professionals and political activists were dressed as if they were attending a networking mixer. They watched the election returns on flat panel screens as they nibbled on chicken wings and fried catfish.

And for the most of the night, they spoke with reserved confidence that Obama would likely win. But they didn't want to jump the gun. 77-year-old civil rights pioneer and longtime educator Josie Johnson didn't want to jinx Obama early in the evening. But she reflected upon how things have changed since she was a girl living in Texas, where African-Americans had to pay a poll tax before they could vote.

JOSIE JOHNSON: We have come this far to the point that what we are trying to do now is watch for the successful election of an African-American man to become President of the United States.

BRANDT WILLIAMS: As the night went on, the election returns began to heavily favor Obama. The crowd began to cheer as state after state turned toward the Democrats. After Ohio went for Obama, the crowd became a bit more certain of what was going to happen. Historian Mahmoud El-Kati told the group that Obama is the product of the hard work and the bloodshed by the Civil Rights generation. El-Kati says he was reminded of that by a poster he saw on the wall of a restaurant.

MAHMOUD EL-KATI: There was a poster with an image of Martin Luther King on one side of the poster and an image of Barack Obama on the other side. Under King's image was He Had A Dream. And on the other side of the wall, Obama's image said He Is The Dream.

BRANDT WILLIAMS: Shortly after CNN called Virginia for Obama, a state that normally voted Republican, the call came across the television that Obama was the new president. People hugged each other and cheered. Tears were shed, and about 20 people simultaneously clamped their cell phones to their heads and yelled into them. Rose McGee was one of them.

ROSE MCGEE: I got a call from my son. He's in LA, and he wanted to scream in my ear and let me scream in his ear. It was fabulous. Oh, god. This is incredible.


MATT LITTLE: There are no words to describe this feeling.

BRANDT WILLIAMS: Matt Little was born in the Jim Crow South about 87 years ago. He came to Minnesota in 1948. And as a leader in the local NAACP, Little led the state's delegation to the March on Washington in 1963.

MATT LITTLE: I almost feel that my life is completed, that I have seen what I have been doing all of my life. And now, I see it happening in my lifetime. I never thought about-- I never thought I could possibly see this-- or feel this way about something. It has been-- it's terrific.

BRANDT WILLIAMS: The announcement of Obama's election to the White House was the moment the group had been waiting for all night. And for some, it was the moment they'd been waiting a lifetime for. Brandt Williams. Minnesota Public Radio News, Minneapolis.


Materials created/edited/published by Archive team as an assigned project during remote work period in 2020

This Story Appears in the Following Collections

Views and opinions expressed in the content do not represent the opinions of APMG. APMG is not responsible for objectionable content and language represented on the site. Please use the "Contact Us" button if you'd like to report a piece of content. Thank you.

Transcriptions provided are machine generated, and while APMG makes the best effort for accuracy, mistakes will happen. Please excuse these errors and use the "Contact Us" button if you'd like to report an error. Thank you.

< path d="M23.5-64c0 0.1 0 0.1 0 0.2 -0.1 0.1-0.1 0.1-0.2 0.1 -0.1 0.1-0.1 0.3-0.1 0.4 -0.2 0.1 0 0.2 0 0.3 0 0 0 0.1 0 0.2 0 0.1 0 0.3 0.1 0.4 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.2 0.1 0.4 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.2 0 0.4-0.1 0.5-0.1 0.2 0 0.4 0 0.6-0.1 0.2-0.1 0.1-0.3 0.3-0.5 0.1-0.1 0.3 0 0.4-0.1 0.2-0.1 0.3-0.3 0.4-0.5 0-0.1 0-0.1 0-0.2 0-0.1 0.1-0.2 0.1-0.3 0-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.2 0-0.1 0-0.2 0-0.3 0-0.2 0-0.4-0.1-0.5 -0.4-0.7-1.2-0.9-2-0.8 -0.2 0-0.3 0.1-0.4 0.2 -0.2 0.1-0.1 0.2-0.3 0.2 -0.1 0-0.2 0.1-0.2 0.2C23.5-64 23.5-64.1 23.5-64 23.5-64 23.5-64 23.5-64"/>