On February 18th, as part of the official recognition of Black History Month, President Obama met with a group of African-American leaders at the White House to discuss civil-rights issues. The guests—who included Representative John Lewis, of Georgia; Sherrilyn Ifill, the director-counsel of the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense and Educational Fund; and Wade Henderson, who heads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—were intent on pressing the President to act decisively on criminal-justice issues during his last year in office. Their urgency, though, was tempered by a degree of sentimentality, verging on nostalgia. As Ifill later told me, “We were very much aware that this was the last Black History Month of this Presidency.”
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