Nothing Unique About It

A new generation of African-American leaders is stepping up. Obama is just the best known

Callie Shell / Aurora for TIME

The first time I ever used the term post--civil rights to describe the new generation of African-American politicians I was studying, the Rev. Joseph Lowery hollered at me. He wanted to know, What in the devil does that mean?

I have to admit that I had no good answer for the 86-year-old civil rights icon as we stood backstage last year at a banquet honoring the 50th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. Perhaps because it has been so meteoric, Barack Obama's ascendancy has made us lazy about our history and lazy about the language...

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