Election 2008

Historic Antecedents to Obama's Speech on Race

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Jesse Jackson

Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson is surrounded by members of his family at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Terry Ashe/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Terry Ashe/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday is already being hailed as one of the most powerful discourses on race ever given by a politician. But many of its themes rested on the traditions of other African-American orators and leaders.

Jackson, for instance, tackled the issue of race in his 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns. At the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, he gave an address known as the Rainbow Coalition Speech in which he urged voters to "turn to each other and not on each other and choose higher ground."

Jackson's speech did not elicit the same level of publicity that Obama's has provoked.

Susan Stamberg talks about historic speeches on race with Joshua Guild, a professor of history and African-American studies at Princeton University.



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