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NAACP President On 'Commonality' of Selma, Seneca Falls and Stonewall

Jan 22, 2013
Originally published on January 22, 2013 8:48 pm

In his inaugural address, President Obama made reference to historic events in the women's rights movement, the black civil rights movement and the gay rights movement.

Obama mentioned Seneca Falls, N.Y., site of the first women's rights convention; Selma, Ala., where demonstrators advocating for black voting rights were attacked by police in 1965, and from where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a historic march; and the Stonewall Inn in New York's Greenwich Village, the site of a 1969 riot that inspired the modern gay rights movement.

NPR's Liz Halloran on Tuesday spoke to a gay rights activist and historian for perspective on the 1969 Stonewall riots.

And NPR's Ari Shapiro spoke with Benjamin Todd Jealous, the president and CEO of the NAACP. Here's part of that conversation:

Shapiro: How did you react when you heard this troika of Selma, Seneca Falls and Stonewall on Monday?

Jealous: In his speech, I think the president did ultimately what he does best, which is to really speak to the commonality across so many different groups in our society, the commonality across so many different struggles for rights, and get right down to the core that at the end of the day, what we're all seeking to do — and what the freedom fighters at Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall are all trying to do — is just simply move our country towards the realization of its own pledge, that this be one nation, with liberty and justice for all.

Shapiro: Is there a sense of possessiveness within the different equal-rights movements?

Jealous: Each fight has been led by folks who are proud and supported by folks who are proud about what they've accomplished, who are clear that the type of oppression they experience is different. But to have the president of the United States validate each of these movements, and through inference and through various other statements, so many others, was important. And I think today's activists, especially today's young activists, are more willing, more able, more inclined, less inhibited to see our country's great movement for human rights as what it is, which is at the end of the day one great movement.

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