President's inaugural speech refers to tipping points in nation's civil rights struggle

President Obama's cites three historical events in second inaugural address as examples of civil rights gains.

In his second inaugural speech, President Obama referenced the advancement of women, black and gay rights, mentioning three specific events, Seneca Falls Convention, the Selma to Montgomery March and the Stonewall Riots. All three events are regarded as having a significant impact on their respective movements.

Related: Listen to President Obama's second Inaugural speech.

 

Seneca Falls Convention

About 300 delegates gathered at Seneca Falls, N.Y. from July 19–20, 1848 to participate in a convention pertaining to women's rights. At the end of the convention, 68 women and 32 men, 100 in all, signed the Declaration of Sentiments, which included a series of resolutions, one of which was women's right to vote, or women's suffrage. Among the speakers at the convention was writer and former slave Fredrick Douglas. It was the first women's rights convention to be organized by women in the Western world, and the Declaration of Sentiments is considered a foundational document in the American woman's suffrage movement.

 

Selma to Montgomery March

 

Civil rights marchers were attacked by state and local police with clubs and tear gas in Selma, Ala on March 7, 1965, also known as “Bloody Sunday,” while they were attempting to march to Montgomery, the state capitol. A second march held Tuesday ended when 2,500 protesters turned around after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge due to a court order preventing them from marching to Montgomery. The third march started March 16, when the protesters walked on U.S. Route 80. This time, they were protected by 2,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army and 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under federal command. They eventually arrived in Montgomery on March 24. The attack on protesters, reported by television networks and newspapers, had a tremendous impact on public opinion regarding the civil rights movement.  The attacks also inspired President Lyndon Johnson to present a bill to Congress that would later become the Voting Rights Act.

 

The Stonewall Riots

A riot took place after police raided a gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, in Greenwich Village in New York City June 28, 1969.  Following the riot, Greenwich Village residents held a series of protests against the New York City police for their frequent raids on gay bars. The riots are considered a defining moment in the gay rights movement, when supporters began to organize politically. Two gay activist organizations were formed in New York within six months, and within a few years organizations had been founded across the country. The first Gay Pride marches would be held in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York the next year, commemorating the anniversary of the riots.

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