Biden hosts Juneteenth celebration: 'White House lawn’s never seen anything like this before'

President Biden on Monday marked the upcoming Juneteenth holiday with a concert on the White House lawn, striking a celebratory note even as he warned of GOP-led efforts to roll back rights for Black Americans.

Biden, Vice President Harris, second gentleman Doug Emhoff and dozens of federal and state lawmakers gathered on the South Lawn for a concert that featured performances by Kirk Franklin, Gladys Knight, Trombone Shorty, Doug E. Fresh and Patti Labelle.

“White House lawn’s never seen anything like this before,” Biden remarked, calling it a “fitting tribute to Juneteenth.”

Gospel singer Kirk Franklin dances with Vice President Kamala Harris during a Juneteenth concert on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Biden, in 2021, signed legislation that made Juneteenth a federal holiday. The holiday marks the ending of slavery in the United States. It is celebrated each year on June 19, which is when the last enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas, learned of their emancipation.

Amid the jubilation and dancing at the White House, Biden warned of “old ghosts in new garments trying to take us back.”

“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,” Biden said.

“Trying to erase and rewrite history,” he continued. “Our history is not just about the past, it’s about our present and our future. It’s whether that future is a future for all of us, not just for some of us.”

Patti Labelle performs during a Juneteenth concert on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The White House announced new initiatives to preserve Black history earlier Monday, just days before Juneteenth. 

The president and his reelection campaign have repeatedly credited Black voters with securing Biden’s victory in 2020. Last month, the president visited Philadelphia, where he specifically sought to contrast his record of investing in the Black community with that of former President Trump.

A poll published last month conducted by The New York Times, Siena College and The Philadelphia Inquirer found Biden leading Trump among Black voters, 63 percent to 23 percent, which would be a significant decrease from his 2020 margins.

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