Home National news Biden-Harris Administration celebrates Juneteenth with concert, new initiatives to honor Black history

Biden-Harris Administration celebrates Juneteenth with concert, new initiatives to honor Black history

The White House marked Juneteenth a bit early with a vibrant celebration on the South Lawn June 10 (2024’s Juneteenth is set for Wed. June 19). The celebration featured performances by celebrated African American artists, including Gladys Knight, Raheem DeVaughn, Patti LaBelle, Charlie Wilson, and Doug E. Fresh. Over 2,000 guests, including President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, attended the event, which officials said will emphasize the Biden-Harris Administration’s dedication to preserving and honoring African American history.

Since taking office, President Biden and Vice President Harris have prioritized advancing racial justice and recognizing Black history as an essential component of American history. The White House said the dedication is reflected in significant actions such as signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, establishing the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, and posthumously awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to civil rights icon Medgar Evers.

Amid efforts to combat attempts to rewrite history and undermine racial progress, the administration hosted a live-streamed event featuring officials, artists, civil rights leaders, and scholars to discuss federal initiatives to protect African American history. The gathering highlighted ways the public can commemorate Juneteenth and emphasized the broader historical significance of African American experiences.

In conjunction with the celebration, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities organized the second annual Juneteenth National Independence Day event in partnership with the White House. The large-scale concert also honored Black Music Month, showcasing African American musical legends and underscoring the cultural importance of this federal holiday.

Harris declared June 19, 2024, one of three National Days of Action on Voting, should focus on enhancing voter engagement and safeguarding voting rights. The White House noted that National Days of Action will also occur on August 6 and September 17, 2024.

Patti LaBelle and Charlie Wilson perform at the White House for Juneteenth 2024 celebration with President Joe Biden in the background (photo by Mark Mahoney/Dream In Color).

Aligned with Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting the Arts, the Humanities, and Museum and Library Services, several federal agencies announced new initiatives to protect African American history and culture. The National Archives Museum will display the original Emancipation Proclamation and General Order No. 3 from June 18 to June 20, while the National Park Service will offer free entrance to park sites on Juneteenth.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has launched a digital repository to deepen public understanding of African American history. Additionally, NEH will establish a nationwide program celebrating Juneteenth, leading to a grand 160th-anniversary celebration in 2025.

In response to the rising incidence of book bans targeting historically marginalized groups, the U.S. Department of Education announced it had appointed a coordinator to address the impact of such restrictions on civil rights. The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity will host events emphasizing the importance of culturally relevant education.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) plans to announce new recipients of the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship, celebrating the contributions of African American musicians to jazz. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) will highlight projects that preserve African American history as part of its ‘250: All Stories. All People. All Places’ initiative.

The administration said it has significantly invested in preserving African American history through infrastructure and preservation projects. The Department of Interior’s National Park Service (NPS) and the Historic Preservation Fund have allocated substantial funds for these efforts, including grants to support underrepresented communities and historic site nominations.

Federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, are working to document and uplift the stories of communities affected by past federal policies. The NEH prioritizes projects that preserve historical collections on slavery and its legacies. At the same time, the President’s Committee on Arts and the Humanities will launch initiatives to support underserved creative and cultural communities.

“Through these actions and policies, the Biden-Harris Administration reaffirms its commitment to advancing racial equity and ensuring that America’s promise is realized for all citizens,” the White House said in a Fact Sheet.

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