In his essay "In Our Lifetime," Henry says the first of these moments was the Emancipation Proclamation, which was announced on New Year's Day in 1863. The next came on June 22, 1938, when African-American boxer Joe Louis defeated German Max Schmeling. Dr. Gates' third moment was on August 28, 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech before a huge crowd at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. "But we have never seen anything like we witnessed last night, when Senator Barack Obama was declared President-elect Barack Obama," Dr. Gates says. "Each of us will always remember this moment. All I can say this morning is: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound." You can read the full essay at TheRoot.com.
Dr. Gates says this election is a crossing of the ultimate color barrier. "It is the culmination of a century-and-a-half campaign for the freedom of our people's rights and a campaign against racism in America," he says. "I can't believe it. Frederick Douglass couldn't believe that Lincoln actually was going to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. And 3,000 people waited in Tremont Temple in Boston Common for the news to come—it didn't come until 11 p.m. on New Year's Day. And the news of Barack's election came at 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time last night. I wouldn't let myself go until we actually heard the news. I was with a bunch of Harvard professors. When they announced it, we jumped up, we wept, we hugged each other, we whooped and hollered, we went totally crazy. It was great—the greatest night of my life."