Biden Hosts Joyful Juneteenth Celebration on White House Lawn

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, and more convened on the White House lawn on Monday evening for a celebration of the upcoming Juneteenth holiday.

Comedian Roy Wood Jr. MCed the concert, which featured appearances by Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, Ledisi Anibade Young, Kirk Franklin, Patina Miller, Doug E. Fresh, and Brittney Spencer. The concert was filled with memorable moments including Knight’s joyful performance of her 1967 hit “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” which she first debuted with The Pips.

During Franklin’s performance of “I Smile,” the singer brought the vice president on stage to join him in a lighthearted moment and they danced on stage together.

Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States after the Civil War, was signed into law by Biden in 2021. The federal holiday marks June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African Americans that slavery had ended — nearly two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

While Juneteenth has long been regionally recognized in the South, nationwide interest in the day grew after the police killings of Black Americans including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked 2020 protests across the country and globe. On Monday, Biden was joined by Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, and his wife, Keeta Floyd.

“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,” said Harris when speaking to the crowd gathered on the South Lawn, before announcing that on Juneteenth, the Biden administration “will hold a national day of action on voting.”

Hariss continued, “While Juneteenth is a day for celebration, it is also a day for dedication … a day to renew our commitment to defend our freedoms, to honor our history and to continue to fight for the promise of America.”


Following the night of performances, Biden took to the stage and commented that the “White House lawn’s never seen anything like this before,” and called the evening a “fitting tribute to Juneteenth.” In seeming reference to Republican lawmakers backing a slew of bills targeting diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, Biden continued, “They are taking away your freedoms, making it harder for Black people to vote or have your vote counted. Closing doors of opportunity, attacking the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. If you can believe it, banning books about Black experience.”

“Our history is not just about the past, it’s about our present and our future,” said the president. “It’s whether that future is a future for all of us, not just for some of us. Black history is American history.”

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