ATLANTA — Asante Bradford gave his bosses nearly three months notice that he would not be at his desk on Jan. 20.
A day after Barack Obama's historic presidential win, Bradford knew he wanted to be able to whoop it up when Obama was sworn in as the nation's first black chief executive — and that he couldn't do that at work.
"I decided if I couldn't be (in Washington), I'm just going to take the day off, just so I can scream and holler," said Bradford, 40, who works for the state of Georgia as a liaison to the entertainment industry. He plans to watch the festivities at home with friends.
People across the country may notice the absence of their black colleagues and classmates on Inauguration Day, as many who won't be traveling to Washington gather at homes, restaurants and churches, huddle around TVs and watch the historic swearing in from afar. And while the ceremony itself will only last a few hours, the entire day offers a chance to reflect and rejoice in the moment.
"Being at work is not an option," said Brenda Wilson, a 51-year-old manager at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta who dropped her dreams of heading to Washington but will not be in the office. "I wouldn't be able to get any work done, wondering what was going on."
Many black Americans deem the inauguration, coming a day after the federal observance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, as something of a holiday requiring cultural solidarity, much like the Million Man March or the first King holiday in 1986. Then as now, many black people felt compelled to miss work, said Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of black popular culture at Duke University.
It recalls the 1965 theatrical classic "Day of Absence," a one-act satire by black playwright Douglas Turner Ward that ponders events in a fictitious Southern town when all of the black people disappear.
"There's a symbolism to this moment that would allow that they stay home and celebrate in their own ways," said Neal, who plans to watch the ceremony with his daughters at their school.
Some businesses, particularly those with a large number of black employees, will accommodate workers, realizing the significance of the day.
Offices at The 100 Black Men of Atlanta will be closed to give the staff "an opportunity to participate in the experience" of the inauguration, said its chief executive officer John Grant. The group is a local chapter of The 100 Black Men of America, an organization of professional men who serve as mentors and role models for at-risk youth.
Many from there will spend at least part of their day at a boys' charter school in Atlanta, watching the ceremony with about 175 sixth- and seventh-graders, including quite a few who will interrupt their workdays to volunteer.
"We want to sit with these young men and have a conversation with them about the importance of what this means to the nation, to the world and the image for young African-American men to see (Obama) with his wife and family and what this can mean for them," Grant said.
Organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, headquartered in Baltimore, will stay open, though employees will likely pause to watch the events.