Editor’s note: This is the last of a series of Black History Month highlights of prominent Chicago African Americans and important events.
On Nov. 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected the 44th American president, and the first African American to lead the nation.
He was born Aug. 4, 1961 in Hawaii, to Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Sr., who was from Kenya. They later divorced, and his mother married Indonesian Lolo Soetoro. Obama lived in Indonesia for four years, until 1971 when he returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents.
He graduated from Columbia University and moved to Chicago in 1985 to work as a community organizer. Between 1988-91, he attended Harvard Law School.
Obama returned to Chicago and met his wife, Michelle, in 1989 at the law firm where they both worked. They married in 1992 and have two daughters, Malia and Sasha.
From 1992-2004, he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago while also working as a civil rights lawyer.
In 1997, he was elected to the Illinois senate, representing the 13th District on Chicago’s South Side. He served for eight years, working on issues including campaign finance reform, racial-profiling and welfare reform.
In 2004, Obama won the U.S. Senate seat left open by Peter Fitzgerald, becoming a rising star in the Democratic party when he beat Republican Alan Keyes in a landslide.
He was mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential candidate as early as 2006, despite his short time in the national spotlight. He announced his plans to run on Feb. 10, 2007.
Obama surprised with his strong showing in the Iowa primary and the race became a showdown between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In August 2008, he and running mate Joe Biden secured the Democratic Party’s nomination.
On Nov. 4 in Grant Park, Obama delivered his victory speech to a crowd that numbered nearly a quarter of a million people. He was sworn in as president on Jan. 20, 2009.