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Clinton, Obama Campaigns Collide in Alabama

Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., appeared in Selma, Ala., on Sunday to commemorate the 1965 march for civil rights. A New York Times reporter discusses the event, the first time the candidates have appeared together in the 2008 presidential race.

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    Forty-two years ago this week, Selma, Alabama, was the site of bloody Sunday, one of the most violent confrontations of the American civil rights movement.

    But with an already heated campaign underway for the '08 Democratic presidential nomination, involving two leading candidates who are fighting hard for the black vote, this year's commemoration was as notable for its politics as its history.

    At the site where, on March 7, 1965, 600 voting rights marchers — most of them black — were attacked by police, using billy clubs and tear gas, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton came to share the spotlight.

    Before both walked in the memorial march, Clinton and Obama spoke before big audiences at separate churches just three blocks apart. Obama appeared at the Brown Chapel AME Church and injected some personal history, how his white mother and black father came together, influenced by the civil rights movement.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: There's something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. And so they got together and Barack Obama, Jr., was born.

    So don't tell me I don't have a claim on Selma, Alabama. Don't tell me I'm not coming home when I come to Selma, Alabama. I'm here because somebody marched for our freedom. I'm here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants.


    Senator Clinton spoke at the First Baptist Church.

    SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: We must never forget the blows they took. Let's never forget the dogs, and the horses, and the hoses that were turned on them, driving them back, treating them not as human beings, but also don't forget about the dignity with which they bore it all.


    Honoring bloody Sunday has become an annual tradition for many civil rights leaders and African-American politicians. Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who, 42 years ago, was beaten and arrested during the original march, praised the appearances by both candidates.

    REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), Georgia: To see these two candidates there will help to remind people of the distance we have come.


    But both Clinton and Obama told their audiences, filled with black religious and political leaders, that there was much more work to be done.


    …that until we've got absolute equality in this country, in terms of people being treated on the basis of their color or their gender, that that is something that we've got to continue to work on.


    Yes, that long march to freedom that began here has carried us a mighty long way, but we all know we have to finish the march.


    Alabama Congressman Artur Davis — who has endorsed Obama's candidacy — acknowledged that Senator Clinton was smart to come to Selma.

    REP. ARTUR DAVIS (D), Alabama: I think that Senator Clinton felt that there was no better place than this stage to make a statement about her seriousness in contesting the black vote.


    Adding to the electricity of the day was the presence of Senator Clinton's husband, the former president, who was inducted into the Voting Rights Hall of Fame.

    At one point during the day's ceremonies, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama hugged, a rare moment of unity in an already tense competition.