Barack Obama who, the following day, would be inaugurated as the first African American President of the United States. “When I look at Barack Obama,” Lester wrote, “I see a man who grew up in a world in which legal racial segregation had become something read about in history classes, a man who does not remember the lynching of Emmett Till, a man who did not put his life at risk so that the words ‘with liberty and justice for all’ would mean what they say, and I am thrilled that he knew none of that.” On the presidential campaign trail in 2007, Obama himself offered a more ambiguous analysis of the legacy of the black freedom struggle. Speaking at Brown Chapel in Selma, Alabama, where wounded marchers had found shelter on Bloody Sunday in 1965, he told an audience of civil rights veterans, “it’s because they marched that the next generation hasn’t been bloodied so much.”1 Together, Lester and Obama’s broad assessments of African American history since the civil rights movement serve as an insightful verdict on developments in black crime and punishment over the Indeed, the national and international prominence of the case is partly a consequence of the many ways that it resonates with that history.
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