"It is almost unbelievable for me really to take in the significance of this day. My mind is beginning to reflect on the struggles, the jailings, the beatings," Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., told CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
Cameras caught the Rev. Jesse Jackson weeping during Barack Obama's victory speech in a Chicago park on election night.
"To get here, we've gone through some bloody trails of terror to get here, some good people - I think about the two Jews and the black kids just wiped out (in Philadelphia, Miss.), Medgar Evers, Dr. (Martin Luther) King at 39," Jackson told Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez. "We paid a price to get here."
Lewis was beaten and jailed during the civil rights protests, and is amazed that that was less than 45 years ago.
"We're going to see and witness a black man stand and take the oath of office as President of the United States of America. It's going to be too much," Lewis said. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I may lose control. I may have an out-of-body experience. I don't know what I'm going to do."
Jackson dates the start of the struggle to a little before that, in the 1950s.
"President Obama is running the last lap of at least a 54-year race. The '54 (Supreme Court) decision which made racism illegal was the beginning of the end of that system," Jackson said. "And then the '55 boycott, the lawsuits of 1964, the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and then tweaking it (by giving) 18-year-olds the right to vote.
"So this really is the last lap of a 54-year race."
"I walked through the Mall and down the Mall yesterday. And I saw people early this morning as I walked from my home here on Capitol Hill to the Capitol, and I'll tell you, it is the essence - it is the making of the beloved community that Dr. King lived and died for. It is the building of a truly racial democracy in America," said Lewis. "I think we're coming to that point where we're laying down the burden of race."
Jackson says it's not just a milestone in America.
"People in villages and hamlets in Kenya and in Haiti and the aborigines and in Europe, people feel that this is theirs," he said.
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