It was about three in the afternoon of the election at the Pittman Park Recreational Center in Pittsburgh, a historically black neighborhood south of downtown Atlanta.
Lawrence Miller walked out of the polling station after the vote and let out a “Whoop!” A DJ playing mostly Atlanta rappers like YFN Lucci added to the bright atmosphere. The weather – which someone said felt like November 3rd, with no rain, clouds, or wind – made it easier to stop and talk.
So Miller set about giving a British reporter an impromptu class on US elections. “I was born in the 1960s,” said the 59-year-old, referring to the civil rights movement. “Race is the cornerstone of all politics in America.”
Miller lamented the “disgusting Republican commercials” attacking Rev. Raphael Warnock in recent weeks that linked the Senate Democratic candidate to socialism and anti-Americanism, often based on out of context excerpts of his sermons from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church . These attacks were in line with those once directed against Martin Luther King Jr. Clayborne Carson, Stanford University historian and administrator of King’s Archives.
“That was like a death sentence,” said Carson. “But it didn’t work this time.”
Miller had voted for Warnock and Jon Ossoff, both of whom have now been confirmed by the state as winners of their races. In addition to placing the balance of power in the Senate in democratic hands, Georgian voters made history twice by electing the state’s first black senator and the first Jewish senator.
When I left Pittman just after 5 ClockWith almost two hours of voting time, the district had already exceeded the November 3 total. The same result was observed across the state, not just in the greater Atlanta area but also in what is known as the Black belt, a largely rural area of the state stretching from Augusta on the eastern border with South Carolina to Columbus on the western border with Alabama. The number of black voters in the weeks of early voting was higher than in the same period before November, inclusive 48,711 who did not vote in the general election.
The black and brown turnout in the runoff election – and the results – made Carson think of a conversation he had in 1984 with Ronald Walters, a political scientist and advisor to Rev. Jesse Jackson in his presidential campaign at the time. “He said the Democratic Party’s intention to trap millions of white voters who went to the GOP was a stupid strategy and an unfortunate fate -[because] you have to become more like the GOP. “
“A more promising strategy” for the Democratic Party: “Basically do what happened in these elections – mobilize African Americans, other minorities, the youth election. Campaign with progressive guidelines.”
Veronica Napier was out in Pittman on Tuesday with her mother, Georgia Bell. She had voted at the beginning of the general election, but this time she couldn’t. “The pandemic has hit our family,” she said. When asked what guided her in voting, she said, “I am voting for America as a whole – to make sure our community gets help to give us some comfort during this time.”
Napier had lost her job cleaning an apartment complex during the pandemic and had four children studying online at home, including an 11-year-old diagnosed with ADHD. She was aware of the role Black voters “I’m doing my part as a black woman and a black American,” she said.
Angela, who refused to give her last name, lived in the area for most of her life. She got her 13-year-old son, Kenneth, to vote. “The people here are fighting,” she said. “I pray they’ll do something about it.”
The Reverend Warnock appeared to be addressing people like Angela in a short victory speech delivered on video Wednesday after midnight. “For everyone out there fighting today,” he said, “I hear you, I see you.”
E.Earlier in the day, a steady stream of voters, most of whom were also African American, had dropped ballots at a Dropbox on the Gwinnett County Board of Registrations. Gwinnett is owned by Georgia second largest countyWith 936,250 inhabitants, it is also the most diverse, according to estimates by the Census Bureau in 2019 – almost 30 percent are black, 22.7 percent Hispanic-American and 12.5 percent Asian.
Brian Chambers had just stepped out of a 13-hour shift as a US postal worker. The days have grown longer since sorting machines were picked up by the post office he works for about a month before the November 3rd elections. “We got ripped off,” he said of the way electoral politics were incorporated into his work. “We know why it was done that way.” As he was leaving the post office, an elderly lady came in with a postal ballot that was missing a stamp. He offered to hand it in for her. “I’m just doing my part,” he said. He next went to a nearby polling station to vote in person.
The 50-year-old voted for Warnock and Ossoff. “People who need help most is why I am voting for these people,” he said. “These others are for the rich.”
A moment later, Jolyn Angus stopped. She had just come in on a flight from Dallas. As a senior healthcare officer at Methodist Health System, she oversaw the introduction of vaccines for Covid-19 the day before. Her daughter Kamarah drove; A Jamaican flag hung on the rearview mirror. Her granddaughter Jaylah was in the front seat; She had spent the past few weeks calling voters for Ossoff’s campaign. Both had voted early.
“The chaos every day is incredible,” said Angus, describing what guided their vote. “I’m looking for some normalcy.” As a health professional, she also hoped that Warnock and Ossoff would help ensure that a “science-based approach” is accepted in response to the pandemic. Her husband should be in Atlanta by 5:00 am on a flight from Dallas Clockif he rushed to their Snellville neighborhood election to vote in person.
Lonnie Plott was one of the few white voters who cast his postal vote in Gwinnett’s office. At 71, Plott said he was a “lifelong Democrat,” a retired electrician, and a native of Gwinnett County. “When I was growing up there weren’t any Catholics, just one Jewish person in the area,” he said. He named the other two targets of the Ku Klux Klan, apart from blacks.
Ann, who also refused to offer her last name, voted absent for the first time; She cast ballots for herself and her two children. “I just want everyone to be treated properly and fairly,” she declared, voting for the Democrats. “There is so much injustice in the world. When you see your fellow man in need, you should help them.”
AEighteen-year-old Drienne Cato first voted with her sister, Ariyanna, who was one year older. She said she received many calls asking for a vote and was “motivated”. Neither had researched the candidates; Both were primarily interested in “getting the Republicans out”. When Adrienne learned that Warnock, if elected, would become the first black Senator from Georgia, he said, “This means something to me.”
The two teenagers were not alive during the civil rights era. Still, historian Thomas Holt described Tuesday’s Georgian results as “almost a direct fruit” of the movement. Holt, author of many books, including Children of Fire: A History of the African Americansaid the multiracial turnout that Warnock and Ossoff had voted for, “the traces of this movement … almost [in] Brick and Mortar, ”referring to Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. was also a senior pastor. “There’s a kind of continuity in that that’s really remarkable,” he said.
Holt also pointed to “one of the successes in mobilization achieved by Stacey Abrams and others” referring to the founder of Fair Fight, a group that has helped register and vote many Georgians in recent years . That achievement: “Access to rural areas and people who are left behind and difficult to mobilize,” including the region known as the Black Belt. “If it stays that way, it’s very important.”
While Holt was on the phone, rioters stormed the US Capitol and committed acts of violence that were also historic. “This type of reactionary violence often occurs among people who are at the end of historical trends,” he said. “Much of this goes back to Obama’s election and the idea that some people feel like my world is coming to an end.”
The unrest made the historian look back to the late 19th century and the period of violence in the south after the reconstruction, as well as to the Ku Klux Klan. “Every loss of power increases the anger,” said Holt, “and the election of Warnock and Ossoff is another reason for their violence.” He referred not only to Warnock as a black senator, but also to Ossoff in the historical context of the Jews in the south, “who are being attacked just as viciously as black Americans”.
As of Tuesday, these two opposing forces were bizarre to see – the violent uprising of a predominantly white crowd of Trump supporters in the nation’s capital, on the one hand, and the “democratization of the electoral process,” as Holt put it, the other – led by black voters across Georgia . If this democratization is sustained, he said, “You could have a blueprint for a new south.”