in my lifetime

in my lifetime

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Images from Black History
in chronological order, as seen in the “In My Lifetime” video.

Slavery begins in the United States in 1619.

Harriet Tubman leads escaping slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad starting in 1849.

The U.S. Civil War begins in 1861.

President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

Hiram Revels of Mississippi becomes the first black U.S. senator in 1870.

W.E.B. DuBois founds the NAACP in 1909.

Black soldiers serve in segregated units in World War I in 1914.

The KKK resurfaces in Fulton County, Georgia, in 1915.

Black poet Langston Hughes publishes his first book of poems, The Weary Blues, in 1926.

Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics in 1936.

Boxer-turned-soldier Joe Louis appears in the government’s World War II propaganda ads in 1942.

Jackie Robinson becomes the first black professional baseball player, joining the Dodgers in 1947.

Malcolm X becomes a minister of the Nation of Islam in 1952.

The Brown vs. the Board of Education decision declares school segregation illegal in 1954.

Rosa Parks refuses to give up her bus seat for a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955.

Nat King Cole becomes the first black host of a weekly TV show in 1956.

Troops escort the Little Rock Nine to their newly-desegregated school in 1957.

Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie become the first black Grammy winners in 1959.

James Meredith becomes the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi in 1962.

Martin Luther King speaks at the March on Washington in 1963.

Sidney Poitier becomes the first black winner of the Academy Award for best actor in 1963.

Malcolm X is assassinated in 1965.

Protest group the Black Panthers is founded in 1966.

All-black Texas Western defeats all-white Kentucky in the NCAA basketball tourney finals in 1966.

Thurgood Marshall is appointed the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice in 1967.

Martin Luther King is assassinated in 1968.

In the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, inhumane medical tests are performed on black subjects through 1972.

The Jeffersons debuts on weekly TV in 1973.

Arthur Ashe defeats Jimmy Connors to win the Wimbledon title in 1975.

Jesse Jackson campaigns for the Democratic nomination for President in 1984.

The Cosby Show is embraced by blacks and whites alike, becoming America’s top TV show in 1984.

Vanessa Williams becomes the first black Miss America in 1984.

Oprah Winfrey’s daily talk show goes national and becomes the top-rated syndicated program in 1986.

Washington Redskin Doug Williams becomes the first black quarterback to win the Super Bowl in 1988.

Video tape of Rodney King’s arrest and subsequent aquittal of the arresting oficers spurs race riots in Los Angeles in 1991.

Golfer Tiger Woods is named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 1996.

Al Sharpton runs for the Democratic nomination and speaks at the party's convention in 2004.

John Kerry selects Barack Obama as keynote speaker for the Democratic convention in 2004.

Barack Obama’s historic campaign leads to his election as the first black U.S. President in November, 2008.


The Story
behind the song and the video.

I’m a white guy who picked Barack Obama as my candidate pretty early in the campaign. I picked him because I agreed with him on most issues, and because I thought his intelligence, incredible charisma, and ability to inspire were what we’d need to reverse eight years of terrible de-evolution of America. Because I despise discrimination of any kind, I saw the color of his skin as kind of a bonus; his election could obviously have great side-benefits for our country and the world. But I supported Barack because I thought it was clear that he’d be the best leader of the U.S.A. going forward and we really needed what he was offering.

I ran into my black friend Randy at a local watering hole on election night. Like me, Randy pays little attention to things like the color of a person’s skin. We discussed the fact that it was cool that Barack is black, but we voted for him because he was such a great candidate. Then we watched the states turn blue on TV, and like tens of millions we cheered and started to get more emotional than we’d expected.

I don’t suppose I knew in advance that the election of our country’s first minority President was going to be one of those rare “where were you when it happened?” moments. But it certainly was. I’ll always remember exactly where I was sitting, and the way I felt when Barack was officially declared our next President and the room erupted. Sharing the experience with a black friend made the night so much more meaningful for me. Randy hadn’t expected to get emotional. But once we knew for sure that we really were going to have a black President, he said, “In my lifetime. I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime.” It almost became a mantra as Randy repeated these words through a stream of tears. “In my lifetime. In my lifetime!” He wondered what his grandfather was thinking in Heaven, and realized that his son would grow up in an America where a black man could rise to the very top. How wonderful it was for me to be able to share this moment! For me, knowing my country was going to have a great new leader would have been way more than plenty.

I started work on the song “In My Lifetime” a few days after the election. Thank you, Randy, for so honestly sharing your emotions and inspiring me to educate myself. I feel like I’ve gained some understanding of the tremendous sacrifices that were required for our society to get to where it is today. While we surely have a lot of this road still ahead of us, apparently we’ve come a long way.

The song was written and recorded here at my house. I’d originally planned to create a complicated and dramatic arrangement with percussion, strings, etc.--but in the end the message of the song seemed best served by the original piano/vocal demo I recorded the night I finished writing it. I’m not sure how a new interest in the particulars of black history turned into the photo montage that now accompanies “In My Lifetime”…I guess at some point I realized I’d collected dozens of images that really needed to be arranged to tell their story.

Because of the way the montage came into existence and the very limited amount of time I had to complete and share this project before inauguration day, I was not able to compile a list of photographer/artist credits (many of which are unknown). This is more than unfortunate, and if this sentence happens to find the eyes of anyone who captured any of the images I’ve included or holds the rights to any of them…please accept my sincere apologies and let me know how I can offer proper acknowledgement. The video is not and will never be made available for sale, nor will I reap any financial benefits from the images therein.

To all, thanks for taking a listen and a look. Here’s to believing in change and, as a country, making it happen in our lifetime.



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