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Growing up in Manning, S.C., Julia A. Nelson did not see a lot of faces that looked like hers in public office. But following the advice of those who told her to study hard and stay out of trouble, she went on to become the first female African American mayor of her hometown. In honor of Black History Month and the launch of African Americans for Obama, we invite you to read Mayor Julia A. Nelson’s story.

Manning Mayor Julia A. Nelson

What does the election of President Obama – our nation’s first African American President – mean to you?

President Obama’s election demonstrates that regardless of an individual’s start in life, he or she can achieve their ultimate dream. In the past and as a child, I would hear adults tell me that if I studied and applied myself, the sky was the limit. I believed them, but I also doubted it because there had never been a black President. Now today, when I tell young people – as I was told – that if you study and apply yourself, remain focused and avoid trouble, that the sky is the limit, I believe that statement is true due to President Barack Obama’s achievement as the first black President of the United States.

When did you first come to support Barack Obama and his presidential campaign?

I had the privilege of hearing this young, intelligent, well-spoken, and passionate gentleman speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. As he spoke, his words spoke to my heart and to the core of my beliefs. I felt the sense of urgency and I too believed that each American could do more to assist others in ameliorating their lives. I felt that God had bigger plans for his life.

Then, when I learned that Senator Barack Obama would be a candidate for president in 2008, I knew in my heart – like it was a calling from God – that I had to be involved in his campaign. I remember going to one of the first organizational meetings in South Carolina in Orangeburg, and was so excited that I had signs and campaign literature to bring to Clarendon County to begin working.

How has President Obama impacted your life?

President Obama’s bid for the presidency and then his election stirred up an interest and a gift that I was unaware I possessed. From my grassroots work with President Obama’s campaign, I learned how to organize effectively, recruit and staff volunteers, create databases, raise funds, maintain momentum, and utilize social media to have successful regional and local campaigns.

It also gave me the courage and belief that I could become the mayor of my hometown. I was elected in July 2011 as the first African American female mayor of Manning, S.C. I completed the term of the former Mayor Kevin L. Johnson, the first African American mayor of our city who was elected as the first African American for S.C. House District 64 in more than a century. Now, I am unopposed to run for the full term election to remain mayor until 2016.

I would have never believed that my work on President Obama’s campaign would lead me to being elected as a delegate for the Sixth Congressional District of South Carolina for the 2008 Democratic National Convention,a member of my local school board, and eventually the mayor of my hometown.

How does it feel to be the first female African American mayor of Manning, S.C.?

At times it is hard to believe that someone like me, with my humble beginnings in life … to accept all of the favor that Jesus has had in my life. There are times in life when certain events cannot be explained except for the goodness and grace of God.

How do you plan to commemorate Black History Month?

I try to commemorate Black History everyday by doing my best in all of my duties as mayor, especially for those individuals who might doubt my capabilities because of my race and gender.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I’m actually a shy person one-on-one, but get me in front of an audience and you would never believe it. The larger the audience, the more comfortable I become.

You never know what skills you might gain from being a volunteer with this campaign. Sign up today to volunteer at and join African Americans for Obama at

Organizing for America South Carolina is a state-based, grassroots organization committed to re-electing President Obama and boosting democrats statewide. Connect with us at, on Facebook at Obama for America – South Carolina, and on Twitter at OFA_SC.

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