When Barack Obama was 22 years old, just out of Columbia University, he took a $10,000-a-year job as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago. It was a shrewd move for a young black man with an interest in politics. Had he stayed in New York, “you would never have heard of him,” says Lou Ransom, the Defender‘s current executive editor. “He may have been a very good lawyer and maybe got elected to some office, but if he hadn’t come to Chicago, he would not have had the kind of support to push him where he is now.”
Reader contributor Edward McClelland, whose forthcoming Great Lakes travelogue I am eagerly awaiting (you can read excerpts here and here), has a compelling piece in Salon that explains why, for a young black man with tremendous political ambition, Chicago was the best city in America to start out.