P.T. Cochran would agree. Mr. Cochran, 88, a retired appraiser for the city of Detroit, recalled a day in 1944 when he and a fellow student at Wilberforce University, a black school in Ohio, went into the town of Xenia to see a movie. The ticket taker told them the theater was closed.
“We knew it wasn’t closed,” said Mr. Cochran. “They just didn’t want to let us in. So we stood there, watching to see if they would let anyone else in.”
The ticket taker refused to admit anyone as long as the two friends were standing outside. They stood there for six hours. Then they called the school and let other friends know what they were doing. The students at Wilberforce alerted white students at nearby Antioch College.
Students from both schools turned out in force — more than 100 of them — to support Mr. Cochran and his friend. “They all stood there with us, to back us up,” said Mr. Cochran. At that point, his voice broke, and he wept softly at the memory from 64 years ago.
“We stayed there until the theater closed that night,” said Mr. Cochran. “And then we came back the next day, which was Sunday, and stood there until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, when they finally decided to let us in.
“I’ll never forget what those kids did for us.”
Mr. Cochran said it would take an hour, “maybe more,” to describe how much Senator Obama’s candidacy meant to him. “I am elated,” he said. “I’m surprised, I—”
His voice broke once again. His tears, and those of so many others, were a measure of the enormity of what had come to pass.