For Precious Samuel, Barack Obama's victory represents more than just a historic moment in American history. It's also a personal victory for the Benedict College student.
“We proved everyone wrong,” the 21-year-old senior from Philadelphia said Wednesday, her eyes sparkling despite long hours and sleepless nights spent shepherding the Obama campaign at this historically black college for the past two years. “When you cast that vote for Barack Obama, you cast a vote for yourself.”
Samuel was one of thousands of black college students who celebrated Obama's victory across South Carolina.
Wearing Obama campaign buttons and clad in a T-shirt featuring images of Obama and civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Samuel looked on as 2,500 Benedict students clapped, sang and swayed at a victory rally in the school's gymnasium.
Officials canceled afternoon classes at the historically black college in Columbia so students could celebrate the victory.
“He's a president for all the people,” Benedict President David Swinton said, looking out on a sea of smiling faces and signs reading “Obama-Biden 2008” and “Yes we did!” “It's a sign that it's possible that we can move toward world peace.”
On Benedict's campus Wednesday, students walked to and from classes excitedly discussing the election, some shouting “President Obama!” and singing lyrics to a popular song about Obama by the rapper Young Jeezy, “My President is Black.”
“It didn't hit me until today,” said Dyrell Clark, a 22-year-old senior from Brooklyn, N.Y., who helped organize voter registration drives, campaign block parties and efforts sending volunteers to North Carolina. “Yesterday, I was just so amazed, and I just don't know what to believe.”
One of those volunteers, 45-year-old Debra Stuckey, sported Obama campaign stickers on the cast mending a leg she broke while canvassing in Greensboro.
“It's worth it. It's worth every bit of it,” said Stuckey, a junior from Bennettsville studying elementary education, with a smile. “I'd do it again.”
Fifty miles south of Columbia, Voorhees College junior Shamtell Williams said she and other students were in disbelief when Obama was declared the winner.
“I honestly just could not believe it when I read on the screen, that Barack Obama had won,” said Williams, 20, who cried with joy as she called relatives in Atlanta.
“Even when I was in high school, a student would say he'd want to be the first black president, and everyone would just kind of look at him and laugh and say, oh, you know that's not going to happen any time soon,” she said. “I'm young, and I didn't think that I would live to see something like this happen. And it's reality now.”