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“Despite all the progress that has been made, we still have more work to do,” Mr. Obama says in the ad, which features a deep-voiced male narrator calling the senator a “Christian family man” and a “soldier for justice.”

“We have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America,” he says. “We’ve got more work to do when it takes a hurricane and bodies floating through a street for us to recognize race and poverty in this country.”

On the stump in front of both black and white audiences, Mr. Obama talks about reforming health care and education as a way to “solve the race problem.”

He also doesn’t shy away from the historic aspect of his candidacy.

“The day I’m inaugurated, the country looks at itself differently,” Mr. Obama said Friday at an Urban League meeting in St. Louis. “Don’t underestimate that power. Don’t underestimate the transformation.”

Urban League President Marc Morial said on CNN yesterday that while Mr. Obama’s candidacy has symbolic meaning, the black vote is “in play.”

“I think what it shows is the maturity of the African-American electorate in South Carolina and across the nation …. No one can take the vote of African Americans for granted in this election cycle,” he said on “Late Edition.” “What we have in the Democratic side, at this point, is competition.”

Mrs. Clinton has been piling up endorsements from black officeholders and celebrities, last week nabbing the support of musician Quincy Jones.

“Hillary Clinton is one of my favorite ladies on this planet who I’ve known for a long, long time and who I believe in and will go to the ends of the earth for,” Mr. Jones said in a video tribute to Mrs. Clinton at a lunch event with 200 black men supporting her candidacy.

Minyon Moore, a senior adviser to the Clinton campaign, said black voters want a nominee with a record of “championing the issues that are important to our community,” such as education and health care.

“She’s not building it; she brings that to the table. There’s a trust level there for her because of her history,” Miss Moore said.