On the night in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected the country’s first black president, many black Americans wept. Eight years later, they weep again for the end of an era some thought they would never live to see — and for the uncertain future they face without him.
In Obama, many African-Americans felt they had a leader who celebrated their culture and confronted their concerns. In his wife, Michelle, they saw a national role model who epitomized style and grace with brown skin.
Now some regard the election of his successor as the price of black progress and the culmination of years of racist rhetoric directed at the Obamas — at times stoked by President-elect Donald Trump himself.
“There’s a great deal of melancholy and fear and despair,” said Lester Spence, professor of political science and Africana studies at Johns Hopkins University. “This is a dynamic that the vast majority of black America has only read about or seen in movies. They don’t understand the potential of what’s coming.”
Not all African-Americans are sad to see Obama leaving the White House. But blacks overwhelmingly voted for the president in 2008 and 2012, and fewer than 1 in 10 black voters supported Trump.
For many, the events of the final days of Obama’s presidency added to the sense of gloom.
With his inauguration fast approaching, Trump took to Twitter last week to bash Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights legend who was nearly killed marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Trump said Lewis was “all talk, talk, talk — no action or results.”
On Monday, the president marked his last Martin Luther King Jr. holiday before he himself enters the annals of history. On Friday, he will be replaced by a chief executive who questioned Obama’s birthplace and offended many blacks during his campaign