Barack Obama's Place Among African-American Leaders and American Presidents is Secure
Barack Obama--Historical Perspective
Barack Obama has been called post-racial as a result of his inclination to reach out to people of all races, religions, and political persuasions. Some critics unsuccessfully tried to tag him with the fiery rhetoric of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and the anti-Semitism of Louis Farrahkhan while others claimed he was "too white" and not a true African-American. But the mud didn't stick.
Since his decisive election, commentators are comparing Obama to Kennedy as a culture-changing icon, to Roosevelt and Lincoln as a leader in a time of crisis and even to Ronald Reagan, rather than to his African-American predecessors on the stage of American history. I will leave the comparisons to presidents Lincoln, Kennedy, Roosevelt and Reagan to the historians and attempt to put him in context among some of the African-American giants of our country's history.
Obama clearly is inclined to reach out to others including those with whom he disagrees. When he was criticized severely by liberals and gays for inviting the homophobic Reverend Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation, Obama responded by inviting gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson to do the invocation at the Lincoln Memorial and The Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery to pronounce the inaugural benediction. Obama gave his first formal television interview to Arab TV's Al-Arabya. Obama's personal views and conciliatory inclinations clearly are closer to those of Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Booker T. Washington than they are to those of Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhahn or The Rev. Wright. However, Obama defies being pigeon-holed by the left or the right.
Obama is a gifted lawyer whose views are more in the tradition of our first African-American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall than those of Justice Clarence Thomas, the current African-American on the high court.
Going back in history, Obama's eloquence matches that of fiery abolitionist Frederick Douglass, but in many respects his conciliatory political inclinations also resemble those of Booker T. Washington.
Barack Obama appears to have less in common with other notable but more militant African American leaders. Like Paul Robeson, Obama is a talented lawyer, but his athletic skills are no match for those of football All-American, Robeson, let alone Robeson's formidable talents as a singer and actor. Without doubt, Paul Robeson was among the most multi-talented individuals, white or black, in American history.
Robeson, like Malcolm X, was a much less conciliatory figure than Barack Obama. He was an indomitable, heroic world peace and civil rights activist who as a result of the Red Scare in the 1940s and 1950s was surveiled and persecuted by the FBI and CIA for more than 30 years until his death in 1976. His reputation has since been rehabilitated and a postage stamp issued commemorating his life. Robeson and Malcolm X had great intellectual capacity which is shared by Barack Obama. Malcolm X initially was a militant black separatist supporter of Elijah Muhammad, but he mellowed later in his life and was assassinated in Harlem by Muhammad disciples.
Barack Obama's place among African-American giants of our country's history is secure. Only history will determine his rank among American presidents and other historical figures. In my opinion, he has the potential to rank in history among the very greatest American presidents. Time will tell.
2012 Election Brings Obama Closer to Greatness
Barack Obama's re-election places him among 18 presidents who were elected to a second term (including Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson who were elected once after serving out the terms of presidents who were assassinated.)
Obama's Record as He Begins His Last Year in Office (According to Timothy Egan in the NYTimes 1-15-16)
"...By any objective measurement, his presidency has been perhaps the most consequential since Franklin Roosevelt’s time. Ronald Reagan certainly competes with Obama for that claim. But on the night of Reagan’s final State of the Union speech in 1988, when he boasted that “one of the best recoveries in decades” should “send away the hand-wringers and doubting Thomases,” the economic numbers were not as good as those on Obama’s watch.
"...At no time in Reagan’s eight years was the unemployment rate lower than it is today, at 5 percent — and this after Obama was handed the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. Reagan lauded a federal deficit at 3.4 percent of gross national product. By last fall, Obama had done better than that, posting a deficit of 2.5 percent of G.D.P...."
NYTimes 1-18-17 "The Most Successful Democrat Since Roosevelt"
The New Yorker 5-23-16 "Liberal-In-Chief" by Adam Gopnik
- President Obama makes the case for liberalism: radical change through practical measures. - The New
Adam Gopnik considers the President’s liberalism: radical change through practical measures.
Chicago Tribune Feb 7, 1990 "Chicago Activist Now Heads Harvard Law Review"
- February 7, 1990 - Activist in Chicago now heads Harvard Law Review | Chicago Tribune Archive
Barak Obama becomes first black to head Harvard Law Review.
5-1-16 NYTimesMagazine "President Obama Weighs His Economic Legacy"
- Log In - The New York Times
"Eight years after the financial crisis, unemployment is at 5 percent, deficits are down and G.D.P. is growing. Why do so many voters feel left behind? The president has a theory."
4-1-16NYTimes "Learning From Obama" Paul Krugman
- Log In - The New York Times
"The lesson of the Obama years is that success doesn’t have to be complete to be very real. You say you want a revolution? Well, you can’t always get what you want — but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."
Text of President Obama's 2016 State of the Union Address
- Text of President Obama's State of the Union address - Chicago Tribune
Text of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, as provided by the White House: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests and fellow Americans: Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed ho
"Giving Obama His Due" by Timothy Egan NYT 1-15-16
- Log In - The New York Times
"By any objective measurement, his presidency has been perhaps the most consequential since Franklin Roosevelt’s time."
Politifact--Fact Checking President Obama's Final State of the Union Address
- Fact-checking Barack Obama's 2016 State of the Union address | PolitiFact
President Barack Obama went after his doubters in his final State of the Union address, dismissing their warnings about the country’s economy and military preparedness under his watch as "political hot air." "Let
Barak Obama's Failure to Fail by Paul Krugman
- Log In - The New York Times
"There was a good reason they seemed so tongue-tied: Out there in the real world, none of the disasters their party predicted have actually come to pass. President Obama just keeps failing to fail. And that’s a big problem for the G.O.P. — even b
Barak Obama's Place in History Secured by U.S. Supreme Court's ACA Decision
- Log In - The New York Times
The Supreme Court decision to uphold nsurance subsidies in President Obama’s health care law is a validation of an effort to fulfill the promise of expanding health care that has been the aspiration of every Democratic president since Harry Truman.
12-6-13NYTimes OP-ED "Obama Gets Real" by Paul Krugman
- Obama Gets Real - NYTimes.com
With a big inequality speech, the president is finally sounding like the progressive many of his supporters thought they were backing in 2008.
11-6-12NYTimes--"Divided U.S. Gives Obama More Time"
- Divided U.S. Gives Obama More Time - NYTimes.com
Voters returned President Obama to the White House, but he will face a Congress with the same divisions that marked his first term.
NYTimes 1-15-16 "Giving Obama His Due" Timothy Eagan
Barak Obama's Acceptance Speech 2012
Wikipedia's Ranking of American Presidents
- Historical rankings of Presidents of the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A 2010 poll of 238 scholars ranked Bush 39 out of 43, with poor ratings in the economy, communication, ability to compromise, foreign policy, and intelligence.Obama ranked 15 out of 43, with high ratings for intelligence, communications & imagina
Images of African-American Leaders by Libby Wilder
Libby Wilder is using Pinterest, an online pinboard to collect and share what inspires you.
11-11-12NYTimes Books "Keeping Hope Alive" by Charlayne Hunter-Gault
- ‘Hand in Hand,’ by Andrea Davis Pinkney, and More - NYTimes.com
Three books highlight the struggle for racial equality in America: "Hand in Hand-10 Black Men Who Changed America" by Andrew Davis Pinkney. "Unspoken--A Story From the Underground Railroad" by Henry Cole. "I Have a Dream" by Martin Luther King, Jr
11-11-12NYTimes "Political Racism in the Age of Obama" by Frank Bruni
- Political Racism in the Age of Obama - NYTimes.com
The attitude of political racism has died hard. It is not, in fact, dead.
10-28-12NYTimes "The Price of a Black President" Professor Frederick C. Harris, Columbia University
- The Price of a Black President - NYTimes.com
The Obama presidency has marked the decline, rather than the pinnacle, of a political vision centered on challenging racial inequality.
"Don't Look Back" by Matt Bai in the NYT Magazine 2-1-09
- "Don't Look Back" by Matt Bai
Matt Bai provides historical perspective on Barack Obama, comparing him to Kennedy, Roosevelt, Lincoln and Reagan.
2-11NY Review of Books--Gary Wills Praises Obama's Speeches and Compares them to Lincoln's
- His Finest Hour by Garry Wills | The New York Review of Books
In a situation where his critics trumpeted family values, he spelled out what those really are. I concluded by saying, of Lincoln and Obama: Each looked for larger patterns under the surface bitternesses of their day. Each forged a moral position
10-9-09 NY Times Obama Awarded Nobel Peace Prize
3-27-10NYTimes--Barack Obama's Key Role in Nuclear Treaty with Russia
- Obama Played Key "Hands On" Role in Nuclear Negotiations With Russia
He has been personally involved in this in a way I dont think other presidents have been, said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. And along the way, he forged a bond with Mr. Medvedev that he hopes will prove useful in the future.
3-23-10 NY Times--Obama Signs Historic Health Reform Bill
- Obama Signs Health Care Overhaul Into Law - NYTimes.com
The most sweeping social legislation enacted in decades became law after a festive, at times raucous, signing ceremony in the White House on Tuesday.
1-21-12NYTimes OPINION--Obama's first term "The Big Deal" by Paul Krugman
- Obama’s Big Deal - NYTimes.com
Yes, progressives have some real victories. I’d suggest using this phrase to describe the Obama administration as a whole. F.D.R. had his New Deal; well, Mr. Obama has his Big Deal.
President Barack Obama's Second Inaugural Address
1-22-13NYTimes--Obama's Speech is an Urgent Call for Progressive Values
- Obama’s Speech Is Urgent Call for Progressive Values - NYTimes.com
President Obama’s second inaugural address indicated a leader less willing to start negotiations by moving to the center.
2-17-12 NYTimes "The Obamas" by Jodi Kantor Review
- ‘The Obamas,’ by Jodi Kantor - NYTimes.com
Jodi Kantor examines the relationship between Michelle and Barack Obama and its public consequences.
3-29-10 NYTimes Editorial--Mr. Obama and Israel
- President Obama Sends a Firm Message to Israel
President Obama made pursuing a peace deal a priority and has been understandably furious at Israels response. He correctly sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a factor in wider regional instability.
3-26-10 NY Times--An Important Obama Accomplishment
- Obama Signs Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty With Russia
President Obama signed a new arms control treaty with Russia that will pare back the still-formidable cold war nuclear arsenals of each country. The agreement brings to fruition one of the presidents signature foreign policy objectives.
- DR. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Martin Luther King, Jr. is considered by many the greatest African-American historical figure as a result of his leadeship of the civil rights and anti-war movement until his assassination in 1968 in Memphis. He was an inspiring orator and leader.
Thurgood Marshall wikibio
- Thurgood Marshall - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier, he successfully argued the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education case before the Supreme Court which invalidated the Plessy v. Ferguson separate but equal case.
- Rosa Parks - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake's order that she give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled.
Clarence Thomas wikibio
- Clarence Thomas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thomas is currently a Supreme Court Justice. His appt'ment by Pres. G.H.W.Bush was opposed strenuously in Senate confirmation hearings. U of Chicago Law School says he's the most conservative member of the Court since 1937, batting .822 conservative.
Dr. Joseph Lowery
- Joseph Lowery - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Joseph Lowery with Martin Luther King, Jr. founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and organized the Montgomery bus boycott.
Dr. George Washington Carver
Frederick Douglass wikibio
- Frederick Douglass - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In 1872 Douglas became the first African-American candidate for vice president of the United States as the running mate of women's suffragist candidate Victoria Woodhull, first woman candidate for president.
George Washington Carver wikibio
- George Washington Carver - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
George Washington Carver(1864-1943) Born a slave; became a scientist, botanist, educator, inventor at Tuskegee Institute. Made significant contributions to agronomy and agriculture in the South.
W.E.B. Du Bois Wikibio
- W. E. B. Du Bois - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (pronounced doo-BOYSS) (1868–1963) was an American civil rights activist, public intellectual, Pan-Africanist, professor of sociology, historian, writer, and editor. At age 95 he became a citizen of Ghana.
Malcolm X wikibio
- Malcolm X - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Malcolm X (May 19, 1925 – Feb. 21, 1965) was an African American Muslim minister, speaker, and human rights activist. To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans. He indicted white Americans in harsh terms.
Booker T. Washington Wikibio
- Booker T. Washington - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
First President of Tuskeege Institute, confidante of Theodore Roosevelt; first African American to dine with the President in the White House; pre-civil rights era civil rights leader.
Paul Robeson Wikibio
- Paul Robeson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was a multi-lingual film and stage actor, All-American and pro football player, writer, orator, lawyer, basso profondo concert singer, civil rights forerunner, trade union leader
Paul Robeson an Amazing American Sings
- Paul Robeson, An Amazing American, Sings
Paul Robeson was an amazing American, son of a former slave, multi-talented, multi-dimensional and courageous in acting on his convictions. A precursor of Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Michael Jordan and Tiger...
Obama's First Inaugural Address
Paul Robeson "Old Man River"
Paul Robeson a Great American
Paul Robeson (1898–1976) was perhaps the most all-around talented American of the twentieth century. He was an internationally renowned concert singer, actor, college football star and professional athlete, writer, linguist (he sang in twenty-five languages), scholar, orator, lawyer and activist in the civil rights, union and peace movements. Though he was one of the century's most famous figures, his name was virtually erased from memory by government persecution during the McCarthy era. The son of a runaway slave, Robeson won a four-year academic scholarship to Rutgers, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated as valedictorian. Despite violence and racism from teammates, he won fifteen varsity letters in sports (baseball, football, basketball and track) and was twice named to the All-American Football Team. He attended Columbia Law School, then took a job with a law firm but quit when a white secretary refused to take dictation from him. He never practiced law again. In London, Robeson earned international acclaim for his lead role in Othello (1944). He starred in many plays and musicals and made eleven films, many with political themes. He promoted African independence, labor unions, friendship between the United States and the Soviet Union, African-American culture, civil liberties and Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler's Germany. In 1945 he headed an organization that challenged Truman to support an antilynching law. Because of his political views, his performances were constantly harassed. In the late 1940s he was blacklisted. Most of his concerts were canceled, and his passport was revoked in 1950.
Peter Dreier in The Nation, October 3, 2010 "The Fifty Most Influential Progressives of the Twentieth Century"
Which President is Obama Most Like? Slate
- Which ex-president is Obama most like? - By Christopher Beam - Slate Magazine
Presidential comparison isn't the most rigorous form of political analysis. Bill Clinton was the next JFK, until he was Warren G. Harding, and then Jimmy Carter. George W. Bush was Teddy Roosevelt until he was James Buchanan. And Barack Obama, if you
First 100 Days--FDR & Obama
2-4-09 Bi-partisanship at What Price, E.J. Dionne in the Washinton Post
- E. J. Dionne Jr. - The Obama Stimulus: Bipartisanship at What Price? - washingtonpost.com
Will Obama give up on larger objectives in his pursuit of Republican votes?
First 100 Days--Obama's Reagan Transformation?
First 100 Days--LBJ & Obama Reassuring a Worried Nation
Obama Meets With GOP Leaders Feb 2010
2-14-10 NYTimes Robert W. Merry The Myth of the One Term Wonder
- One Term Wonder?
With few exceptions, history has not smiled upon one-term presidents. Only one such chief executive has managed with any consistency to get into the historians near great category.
Photos from Barack Obama's Second Inauguration (deedsphotos)
Obama's GOP Critics
- Obama's GOP Critics
Nick Anderson's cartoon from this morning's New York Times' editorial page captures the hysteria displayed by many of Obama's critics. Nick Anderson is a Pulitzer prize winning editorial cartoonist with the...
Best 2013 Photos from the White House
- 2013: A Year in Photos | The White House
Best Photos from Obama White House 2013
The Fifty Most Influential Progressives of the Twentieth Century by Peter Dreier in "The Nation" October 4, 2010
1. Eugene V. Debs
2. Jane Addams
3. Louis Brandeis
4. Florence Kelley
5. John Dewey
6. Lincoln Steffens
7. W.E.B. Dubois
8. Upton Sinclair
9. Margaret Sanger
10. Charlotte Perkins Gilman
11. Roger Baldwin
12. Frances Perkins
13. John L. Lewis
14. Eleanor Roosevelt
15. Norman Thomas
16. A.J. Muste
17. Sidney Hillman
18. Henry Wallace
19. A. Philip Randolph
20. Walter Reuther
21. Paul Robeson
22. Saul Ailinsky
23. Woody Guthrie
24. Earl Warren
25. Ella Baker
26. I.F. Stone
27. Jackie Robinson
28. Rachel Carson
30. Harry Hay
31. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
32. Bayard Rustin
33. C. Wright Mills
34. John Kenneth Galbraith
35. David Brower
36. Pete Seeger
37. Malcolm X
38. Betty Freidan
39. Michael Harrington
40. Cesar Chavez
41. Harvey Milk
42. Ralph Nader
43. Gloria Steinem'
44. Tom Hayden
45. The Rev. Jesse Jackson
46. Muhammad Ali
47. Billie Jean King
48. Bill Moyers
49. Barbara Ehrenreich
50. Michael Moore
Comments 74 comments
More by this Author
The best approach to improving motor vehicle fuel economy may be to apply a ehicle weight tax. This tax could be tapered in over a 5 to 10 year period with the effect of roughly equalizing the fuel cost per mile in the...
It was what Elvis believed, it was what his music had stood for from the start: the breakdown of barriers, both musical and racial. This is not, unfortunately, how it is always perceived 30 years after his death.
Unemployment Compensation--Tips for Claimants The purpose of this document is to provide information which may be useful to individuals who have found themselves in the unfortunate situation of losing their jobs and...