Obama caps two days of civil rights focus at landmark play


President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend a church service at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day, Sunday, January 20, 2013.

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NEW YORK (CNN) — After two speeches heralding the civil rights movement and its impact on his life, President Barack Obama on Friday took in a revival of ‘A Raisin in the Sun,’ the landmark play chronicling racial tension on Chicago’s South Side.

The drama, which entered the canon of American literature soon after its premiere in 1959, is currently running on Broadway starring Denzel Washington.

The first couple were joined earlier in the evening by Valerie Jarrett, the President’s senior adviser, and her rumored boyfriend Ahmad Rashad, the sportscaster and former professional football player.

Until 2001, Rashad was married to actress Phylicia Rashad, who won a Tony Award in 2004 for her performance in an earlier revival of “A Raisin in the Sun.”

The President, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, viewed the show after delivering keynote remarks to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

In his speech Obama harshly criticized Republicans who have advanced new laws that would require photo identification to vote. Obama said the laws, which proponents say would prevent fraud, were meant to disenfranchise minorities.

He characterized the fight against the laws as a modern-day civil rights struggle.

Earlier in the week, Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at the Lyndon B. Johnson presidential library in Austin, Texas. Johnson signed the law, which outlawed for the first time discrimination in public areas, in 1964.

Obama has spoken infrequently about race during his time in office, though since being re-elected in 2012 he’s begun addressing the topic more often. He spoke in deeply personal terms about the death of black teenager Trayvon Martin, and earlier this year announced a new program that aims to support young men of color.

Many suspect Obama will dedicate his post-presidency to that cause.

By Kevin Liptak

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