Composite, Public Domain
Fannie Lou Hamer's activism and role at the Democratic National Convention of 1968 set the stage for Barack Obama's historic nomination.
The Democratic Party is on the cusp of nominating the first African-American presidential candidate from a major party.
How did black Americans reach a historic benchmark in the quest for political power?
The Emancipation Proclamation of 1865, issued at the end of the Civil War, theoretically gave blacks in America full citizenship rights.
But women of all races still couldn't vote, and during Jim Crow-era segregation, only a fraction of black Americans were able to use their voting rights.
But the Civil Rights Movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 radically changed the picture: Vast numbers of black Americans who had never before voted took to the polls.
In 1968, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer mounted a rebellion within the Democratic Party and took her seat at the Chicago convention.
Four years later, New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm ran for president.
Later candidates for major party office included Democratic presidential candidates Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Carol Mosely Braun; as well as Republican Alan Keyes.
For more insight, Farai Chideya talks with Manning Marable, professor of history and public affairs at Columbia University and director of the Center for Contemporary Black History.