Finally, thankfully, the Democratic primary season has come to an end. But the end came much later than most of us could have ever predicted.
With the last of the 2008 primaries in Montana and South Dakota now over, the long, arduous, divisive and sometimes ugly nominating process has at last reached a conclusion. But it has been a historic contest for the Democrats, and for America in general.
The Democratic Party finally wrapped up a months long nominating contest between a woman and a black man, determining the party's presidential candidate in the November general election; Sen. Barack Obama.
This is historically remarkable for a number of reasons.
Black Americans weren't even granted citizenship, or guaranteed equal rights with whites, until 1866, when the Civil Rights Act was passed -- despite the objection and veto President Andrew Johnson. Later that year, Congress approved the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing citizenship to blacks, as well as due process and equal protection under the law to all citizens. However, the Amendment wasn't ratified until 1868.
Black American men were supposedly guaranteed the right to vote in 1870, when the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. But It took nearly 100 more years, and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered and allowed to vote.
Meanwhile, women in New Zealand achieved suffrage on the national level in 1893, and Australia followed suit in 1902. But American women didn't win the right to vote until 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified. My living grandmother was 7 at that time. To add further perspective, it was just 27 years before Hillary Clinton was born.
In retrospect, it is clear that our country has not always lived up to the values and ideals it has touted and proclaimed so proudly.
It's about time that a woman and a black man were seriously considered for the highest office in the land. Their preparedness and qualifications for that office were considered by the American voters, and for Obama, that decision remains in their hands. Being black or female are not in themselves qualifications, but both candidates are smart, educated, dedicated lawmakers.
Considering the hurdles that black Americans, and women in general, had to face in just earning the right to vote -- much less run for office -- the fact that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama made it this far -- each receiving more primary votes than any other candidates in US history -- is remarkable, historical, and worth noting.
After all, it is the 21st Century.