Cory Booker talks frankly about racism as he campaigns, pointing out how the “dark spirit of bigotry” was part of the nation’s founding and urging crowds to speak the truth about prejudice.

Kamala Harris bluntly tells supporters that racism is a potent force in society, saying that Americans have for too long avoided confronting the “awful, shameless history on race in this country.”

In 2019, more than a decade after the nation made history by electing its first black president, and halfway through the term of a president whose words and actions have drawn accusations of racism, the two Democrats are redefining the idea of what it means to be a black presidential candidate.

In their tone, their words, where they travel and which audiences they choose, the U.S. senators have embraced their black identities and followers in ways unprecedented for mainstream presidential hopefuls.

They stand in stark contrast to Barack Obama, who in his early 2008 campaign avoided talking about his race to the point that the biracial Illinois senator was awkwardly asked on national television when he “decided” to be black.

“After Barack Obama, they are facing voters that want more than symbols when it comes to race,” said Vincent Hutchings, a political science and African American studies professor at the University of Michigan.