The Washington Times - January 20, 2009, 09:42AM

Miss Savannah plans to spend this frigid day in her snug apartment, surrounded by friends and watching the inaugural festivities on television.

The granddaughter of a slave, Savannah Custis Mitchell — 98 and sharper than Hilary Rodham Clinton‘s elbows — has watched Barak Obama‘s rise with a wary eye.

“I have worried about him,” she says warily. “He has two little girls.”

A native of southern Virginia who came to New York City during the Depression, Miss Savannah now lives in an apartment building for senior citizens on the edge of Harlem. She and her friends, all African-American widows, plan to visit and watch the festivities.

“You know we’re going to see that,” she said, adding mischieviously. “I’m not going down there — it’s too cold for me.”

Miss Savannah voted for Barak Obama, without hesitation. It was a vote she never thought she’d cast. 

“I was so happy,” she said of Nov. 4. “I never thought I would vote for a black man for president.”

Miss Savannah’s story is emblematic of post-Reconstruction black experience. She was born in her grandfather’s house on a small farm of 40 acres. She worked the vegetable fields with her family but never liked it. When she was 17, she followed a friend to New York, where she got a job as a cleaning woman for a white family. She worked for them until she was in her late 60s.

Now, retired and regal in her one-bedroom apartment, Miss Savannah is watching a dream she says she never really dared to have.

“In my lifetime,” she said. “Imagine that.”

Betsy Pisik, U.N. Bureau Chief