Due to his extensive overseas travel schedule, President Joe Biden celebrated the Juneteenth holiday a few days early by hosting a concert on the White House South Lawn, with singers including Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle.

“Black history is American history,” President Biden told the crowd.

The U.S. President warned that some “old ghosts” in new clothes, a reference to some of his Republican rivals who have revived Confederacy-era doctrine aimed at suppressing people of color, seek to take away their freedoms by making it harder for Black Americans to vote.

President Biden’s remarks came after he had just returned from France – where he visited the beaches of Normandy to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, which was the first step in liberating all of Europe amid a changing civilization. The Red Ball Express, a convoy of mostly Black soldiers, were tasked with rushing supplies from the beaches to the frontlines.

“On that hallowed ground, I spoke about the brave American soldier who fought tyranny for the hope, freedom of democracy,” said President Biden. “These Black soldiers were a link in a distinguished line of patriots, enslaved and free, who risked their lives in every war since the founding of our ideals, that we don’t know fully what American soil is: equality and freedom.”

One of the soldiers of the Red Ball Express who fought for freedom on distant shores was a civil rights lawyer who fought for freedom at home.

“Sixty-one years ago, he was gunned down at home in Mississippi in a poison of White supremacy. But all these years later, his spirit endures,” President Biden added. “You all know his name. It was Medgar Evers.”

In May, Evers was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

This year’s White House concert came as the presidential election is intensifying, with Black voters sure to play an important role. President Biden won 91% of Black voters in 2020, according to AP VoteCast.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, the criminally convicted ex-president, adjudicated rapist, and a documented pathological liar, contends that more Black voters are turning his way.

While Black Americans have consistently voted Democratic, minor changes in political loyalties or low turnout due to Republican disenfranchisement campaigns in key states could influence who wins in November.

During the Juneteenth, noted comedian and concert emcee Roy Wood Jr. listed the extensive policy achievements delivered by the Biden administration, such as capping insulin prices and forgiving student debt.

President Biden signed a law in 2021 that made June 19, or Juneteenth, a federal holiday. It commemorates the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in the United States learned they were free, more than two years after then-President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that liberated slaves in the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Generations of Black Americans have celebrated Juneteenth, which marks the enforcement of the proclamation in Texas with the Civil War ending in a Union victory.

Others at the White House event included singer and songwriter Raheem DeVaughn, gospel singer Kirk Franklin, rapper Doug E. Fresh, singer and songwriter Anthony Hamilton, singer and actress Patina Miller, country singer and songwriter Brittney Spencer, jazz musician Trombone Shorty, and singer and songwriter Charlie Wilson.

There was a festive mood, with Vice President Kamala Harris dancing on stage with Franklin.

“Through the struggles and successes of our history, Black artists like these have put song to our nation’s fight for freedom,” said Vice President Harris. “Through spirituals, blues, and gospel, through jazz, soul, and hip-hop, artists give voice to the joy and hope, ambition and aspiration, courage and conviction of the people of our nation.”

Vice President Harris said this year’s Juneteenth would be a national day of action on voting, an effort to promote participation in the election and oppose efforts at voter suppression.

“In many ways, the story of Juneteenth and of our nation is a story of our ongoing fight to realize that promise, our ongoing fight to build a nation that is more equal, more fair, and more free; a nation where every person has the opportunity not to just get by but get ahead,” added Vice President Harris.

Josh Boak and MI Staff

Associated Press


Susan Walsh (AP)