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The Whole Staircase: Films Celebrating 400 Years of African American History & Culture

By The PeopleBy The People: The Election of Barack Obama  (2009)

The Library will present this film.

On November 4, 2008, Senator Barack Obama became the 44th U.S. president and the first African American elected to the White House. 

"Obama, who was born in 1961 in Hawaii to a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, graduated from Harvard Law School and was a law professor at the University of Chicago before launching his political career in 1996, when he was elected to the Illinois State Senate. He was re-elected to that post in 1998 and 2000. In March 2004, he shot to national prominence by winning the U.S. Senate Democratic primary in Illinois, and that July he gained further exposure when he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, which included his eloquent call for unity among “red” (Republican) and “blue” (Democratic) states. That November, Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate in a landslide.

On February 10, 2007, in Springfield, Illinois, Obama officially announced his candidacy for president. A victory in the Iowa caucuses in January 2008 made him a viable challenger to the early frontrunner, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, whom he outlasted in a grueling primary campaign to claim the Democratic nomination in early June 2008.

During the general-election campaign, as in the primaries, Obama’s team worked to build a following at the grassroots level and used what his supporters viewed as the candidate’s natural charisma, unique life story and inspiring message of hope and change to draw large crowds to his public appearances, both in the United States and on a campaign trip abroad. His team also worked to bring new voters–many of them young or black, both demographics they believed favored Obama–to become involved in the election. Additionally, the campaign was notable for its unprecedented use of the Internet for organizing constituents and fundraising. According to The Washington Post: “3 million donors made a total of 6.5 million donations online adding up to more than $500 million. Of those 6.5 million donations, 6 million were in increments of $100 or less.”

In terms of campaign issues, Obama pledged to get the United States out of the war in Iraq and expand health care, among other promises. A crushing national financial crisis in the months leading up to the election shifted the country’s focus to the economy, and Obama and McCain each attempted to show he had the best plan for economic improvement.

On November 4, more than 69.4 million Americans cast their vote for Obama, while some 59.9 million voters chose McCain. (Obama was the first sitting U.S. senator to win the White House since John Kennedy in 1960.) Obama captured some traditional Republican strongholds (Virginia, Indiana) and key battleground states (Florida, Ohio) that had been won by Republicans in recent elections. Late that night, the president-elect appeared before a huge crowd of supporters in Chicago’s Grant Park and delivered a speech in he which acknowledged the historic nature of his victory (which came 143 years after the end of the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery): “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer… It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009." - from Barack Obama elected as America’s first black president

Screening Date and Locations

November 4, 2019

10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Palatka Campus, Building A, Valhalla Hall

11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. St. Augustine Campus Library, room L112

1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Orange Park Campus, Building D, room D-14

5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.  Palatka Campus Library, 219C

All are welcome to this free event!

If you need an interpreter, please email Dr. Will at least 2 days before the event.

Film Information: By The People: The Election of Barack Obama

"Nearly a year before Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency, two filmmakers began to roll cameras on the young senator. Over the next 19 months, across the USA, the daily events of the presidential campaign are chronicled." - distributor's synopsis

Run time: 116 minutes

This documentary film is not rated. Common Sense Media recommends it for ages 13 and older.

Closed captioning available.

Licensed through Swank

Resources for Further Exploration - By The People: The Election of Barack Obama

Online Resources

Reflections in a Candid Candidate’s Eye - New York Times article about the film

Books and eBooks at the SJR State Library
Books may be checked out by community patrons as well as SJR State students faculty and staff. If a title is located at another campus, the book may be sent to another campus upon request.

Please note: eBooks are only accessible to currently registered SJR State students, faculty, and staff via MySJRstate due to licensing restrictions.

Celebration • Education • Reflection

H.R.1242/Public Law 115-102, the 400 Years of African American History Commission Act, establishes 2019 as a year of "commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies, at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619."  The commemoration is intended “to recognize and highlight the resilience and contributions of African-Americans since 1619; to acknowledge the impact that slavery and laws that enforced racial discrimination had on the United States; and to educate the public about the arrival of Africans in the United States; and the contributions of African-Americans to the United States.” In recognition of this commemoration and with the Act serving as a guide, the SJR State Library has organized a year-long series of events that will provide educational experiences and resources to students and the community that celebrate the history and culture of African Americans.

Site created and maintained by Dr. Christina Will. Pages will be added and maintained throughout 2019.
Maintenance will cease at the end of 2019 but this site will remain accessible.