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Hope, history at the Democratic convention

  • Story Highlights
  • Democrats make history by selecting black candidate for U.S. presidency
  • Decision greeted with much cheering and emotion at convention in Denver
  • During its early years the party supported slavery, in certain regions had racist policy
  • Analyst: Aside from making history, some voters say decision also offers hope
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By Jonathan Mann
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Every once in a while, history unfolds at an American political convention.

Barack Obama, right, and running mate Joe Biden electrified the Democratic faithful in Denver.

Like the year the Democrats gathered in Baltimore and drafted the first party platform the United States had ever seen. It supported slavery.

It was 1840 -- a long time ago. But in the Southern U.S. in particular, the Democrats governed as racists for well over a century.

It was Democratic Party governors who kept black children from going to white schools, who kept black protestors from marching and who jailed Martin Luther King.

This week, the Democratic Party gathered in Denver to choose a black man as its candidate for the presidency.

The hall was crowded with people standing and clapping, some with tears in their eyes. Maybe they didn't know the history or want to recall it at that moment. They certainly knew they were making history of their own.

I was in Denver this week, thinking about those long dead Democrats and about one, very much alive, who I met in the course of this presidential campaign.

She is a single mother named Danyelle America, who runs a small business in an abandoned trailer in Columbia, South Carolina -- a city that still looked pretty segregated to a casual visitor's eyes.

She lives in a neighborhood that she described to me as a dangerous place of drugs and prostitution, where young black children grow up without hope.

Obama made hope the theme of the early months of his campaign and America believed in it. "Somebody's gonna turn on that television and say: 'Man - if he can be president of the United States, then what can I do?'

"That hope he speaks about is right here. It's me."

Obama hasn't won the presidency yet. The latest polls show the race is a dead heat and the early lead he enjoyed over Republican John McCain has disappeared.

The Democrats may be misty-eyed about their choice of a nominee. But a lot of Americans, who are also thinking about Iraq and the economy, aren't convinced Obama is the right man to fix them.

Even so, Obama got the nomination this week and it's worth repeating that it really is history.

However many times journalists say it and turn it into a cliche, it's history. It's an enormous step. It matters.

All the more so because for a lot of his supporters, it is also hope.

All About Democratic PartyBarack ObamaJohn McCainRepublican Party

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