Symposium Foreword – Making History: Race, Gender, and the Media in the 2008 Elections

7 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2010

See all articles by Janai S. Nelson

Janai S. Nelson

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund INC.

Date Written: November 16, 2009


The 2008 elections abound with historic milestones. Never before has a Black candidate been elected to lead a non-Black majority nation. Even before Obama’s presidential victory, however, history was being made. Obama’s success as a minority candidate in the primaries also was unprecedented. The Obama campaign’s use of new media technologies to revitalize political activism among youth, engage the public at large, and raise enormous, record-breaking sums of money was unlike that of any political campaign to date.

But the milestones achieved in the 2008 elections certainly did not belong to Obama alone. The 2008 elections also marked the first time that a Latino candidate, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, sought the presidential nomination of a major political party. In addition, the role of Latino voters in determining the outcome of a national election in the United States had never before been so scrutinized or numerically significant. The prominence of women – both as candidates and constituents – in the 2008 elections likewise was unprecedented. While women have competed for (and secured) presidential nominations as early as 1872, it was not until the 2008 primaries, over 135 years later, that the first woman, now Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, came close to securing the nomination of a major political party. Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska also achieved a first within the Republican Party as its first female nominee for Vice President. Likewise, Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente headed the first all women-all minority ticket for president and vice president, respectively, as the nominees of the Green Party. Never before have women played such integral and defining roles in a United States presidential contest. Against this dynamic backdrop, in the final weeks of the 2008 election season, the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development and its newly affiliated publication, the St. John’s Journal of Legal Commentary, assembled distinguished scholars, practitioners, government officials, and political commentators for a two-day symposium entitled “Making History: Race, Gender, and the Media in the 2008 Elections”.

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Janai S., Symposium Foreword – Making History: Race, Gender, and the Media in the 2008 Elections (November 16, 2009). St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-0188, Available at SSRN:

Janai S. Nelson (Contact Author)

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund INC.

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