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African Americans Proud, Cautious about Obama's Win

African Americans are reacting with pride to Senator Barack Obama's becoming the first person of color to be the presumptive presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party. For some though, the joy is mixed with the fear of bitter disappointment if Obama fails to win the general election against Republican candidate-in-waiting Senator John McCain in November. VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports Washington.

African Americans are savoring Barack Obama's triumph, and for many it is an emotional moment. Some watched on television Tuesday night in awe and disbelief as Obama claimed the nomination after winning the required number of delegates.

"Many people I know probably cried, and there are a few that were short of crying, but they said they will save their tears for November," said Curtis Pree, a real estate agent and political commentator in the Washington, D.C. area.

Christopher Parker is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Washington in Seattle. Parker teaches a course in African American politics, from the pre-civil war South, through segregation and discrimination against blacks, to the civil rights movement and beyond. He said to him Obama's win was an emotional issue.

Parker said it is hard to describe what Obama's candidacy means to African Americans.

"Black folks feel such a sense of pride in seeing him and the way that he has represented himself and us," he said. "It is such, it is just such tremendous pride. I mean I can't - it's really difficult for me to even put into words."

Parker said his grandparents had grown up under the so called Jim Crow laws, in force from 1876 to 1965 in parts of the United States, that mandated segregation of the races in public schools, public places and public transportation. The civil rights legislation in the 1960s ended legalized racial segregation.

Obama is set to give his nomination speech to the Democratic National Convention in Denver on August 28, 45 years to the day after civil rights leader Martin Luther King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington.

But some African Americans fear that the dream of having the first black American president could turn into a nightmare if Obama loses to McCain in November.

"If he does not win, and the exit polls indicate that race was important, and that those people who believe race was important, they voted for McCain, I fear that our country will suffer an irreparable setback," Parker explained.

Ron Walters is a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland. Asked if he is excited about Obama's chances, Walters was careful.

"I am more cautiously optimistic as an analyst because I think on the one hand I see this, and I am pleased and proud about it," he explained. "On the other hand, I know that the challenges he will face, both in the general election, and if he wins, in the administration, are formidable."

Curtis Pree points out that Obama has a multi-racial background, as the son of a Kenyan and a white American mother.

"The thing that makes this victory such a historic one is that Barack Obama is a multi-racial individual, who went to Harvard, white mother and a black father, and he is being judged by the content of his character as opposed to the color of his skin," he noted.

Many younger Americans agree, saying they do not view Senator Obama in terms of a color at all, but cast their votes on the basis of who is the best candidate.