White House celebrates Juneteenth, the newest federal holiday

At a massive concert on the South Lawn, Vice President Kamala Harris said Juneteenth is an occasion to ‘honor Black excellence, culture and community.’

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Jenifer Hudson performs during a Juneteenth concert on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) ORG XMIT: DCSW170

Jennifer Hudson performs during a Juneteenth concert on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Tuesday evening.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden hosted a massive concert on the South Lawn of the White House to commemorate Juneteenth, the country’s newest federal holiday which the president said will “breathe a new life in the very essence of America.”

“To me, making Juneteenth a federal holiday wasn’t just a symbolic gesture. 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 “honor Black excellence, culture and community.”

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“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 realize 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 Chicago’s own 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 June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers told enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, news of their freedom.

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