Winning second to Barack Obama in the Iowa caucus in January and edging just ahead of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards finds himself between two big rivals. Journalist Isabel Wilkerson joined him on the campaign trail. Read excerpts from her article in the February issue on stands now

For now, he is the unwitting middle child in the Democratic primary fight: Caught between one of the most well-known women in the world and a Black rock-star senator, he’s competing flat out with the face of history against candidates who could become the first woman or the first Black president.

On race and diversity:

“I grew up in the segregated South and saw African-Americans being treated disrespectfully and in a demeaning way. I always found it personally offensive. In high school I had a very close friend who would come to our house, an African-American young man. I remember people raising questions about it because of the times in which I lived.”

On his feelings about White Americans who don’t agree with affirmative action and may not believe that racism still exists:

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“The notion that the issues of race and class will simply benignly take care of themselves is absurd. That will not happen. We’ve had decade after decade of treating African-Americans with disrespect, and the consequences are deeply imbedded in our society.”

On why should Black voters choose him over the wife of a president they loved and over the first serious Black candidate:

“When I say I’m the strongest candidate to get into office and do the things we’re talking about, I’m not talking about Barack’s race or Hillary’s sex. I’ve been very clear. If you’re not voting for Barack because he’s Black, and you’re not voting for Hillary because she’s a woman, don’t vote for me…. What I believe, though, is that I’m the only southerner. I grew up in rural small towns in the South, and I think that means that I can appeal to all parts of the country.


Credit: Corbis Photos