The Clarion-Ledger, 1/19/9

Nearly 41 years since the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., African Americans largely remain under-represented at the state level.

And many in Mississippi – both black and white – say the state still has far to go on the eve of Barack Obama taking office as the nation’s first African-American president.

“This year, with the election of Barack Obama, I think America has been able to approach (King’s) dream, but we have some more work to be done,” said state Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland.

In recent years, Mississippi has been a leader in the number of black-elected officials, but no African American has been able to seize a statewide office since Reconstruction.

According to the most recent U.S. Census figures, African Americans make up about 37.1 percent of Mississippi’s population – more than any other state. Still, a black candidate would have to appeal to a broad base of white voters across the state to get elected.