United States President Joe Biden has hosted a concert on the South Lawn of the White House to commemorate Juneteenth, the newest federal holiday, which the president said will “breathe a new life in the very essence of America”.
Juneteenth marks the end of slavery in the US. It was declared a federal holiday by Biden in 2021.
“To me, making Juneteenth a federal holiday wasn’t just a symbolic gesture,” Biden said on Tuesday.” It was a statement of fact for this country to acknowledge the origin of the original sin of slavery, to understand the war was never fought over it. It wasn’t just about a union, but it was most fundamentally about the country and freedom.”
Vice President Kamala Harris said Juneteenth is an occasion to “honour Black excellence, culture and community”.
“America is a promise – a promise of freedom, liberty and justice,” Harris said. “The story of Juneteenth as we celebrate it is a story of our ongoing fight to realise that promise. Not for some, but all.”
The concert also commemorated Black Music Month and featured artists such as Tony Award winner Audra McDonald and singer and talk show host Jennifer Hudson.
In 2021, Biden signed bipartisan legislation establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. The holiday marks the date when the last enslaved people in the United States learned they were free – which occurred on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers told enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, news of their freedom.