Obama Found His Identity in Chicago's Gritty South Side

Political journey began in years as organizer
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2008 7:16 AM CDT
A man moves furniture at the Altgeld Gardens housing project Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008, on Chicago's South Side. where Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., used to work as a community...   (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – Between graduating college and starting Harvard Law School, Barack Obama spent three years working as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side. As he learned how to rally and mobilize people to progressive causes, he also developed a greater understanding of his identity as an African American. The New York Times examines that formative period in the candidate's life.

"He wanted to know what made me tick," one resident on Chicago's South Side said of the young Obama, who brought people together to rid a housing project of asbestos. But Obama was also learning about himself: having spent his first two decades in Hawaii and Indonesia, Obama's move to Chicago gave him his first experience in a black community. "His identification with these people begins his political journey," said a fellow organizer.