In 2021, President Biden officially declared Juneteenth as a Federal holiday. In light of the grand holiday, President Biden and the First Lady hosted their Juneteenth Concert on Tuesday, June 13. Four HBCUs took over the South Lawn at the White House to perform and celebrate. Fisk Jubilee Singers, Hampton University Concert Choir, The Magnificent Marching Machine from Morgran State, and Tennessee State’s Aristocrat of Bands all put on a show.
This concert also featured numerous artists like EGOT holder Jennifer Hudson, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Ledisi, Maverick City Music, and the list goes on.
But before diving into the rest of the article, let’s pause for a quick history lesson.
What is Juneteenth?
June 19 commemorates the emancipation of all enslaved African Americans in the United States, specifically in Galveston, TX. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all slaves in Confederate territories were to be freed. However, not everyone heard the news.
Two years later, on June 19, 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced that the enslaved people there were finally free; well they were already ready free but like I said before it took them a while to get the notice. But better late than never.
In light of the grand holiday, President Biden and the First Lady hosted their Juneteenth Concert at the White House on Tuesday, June 13. This concert featured numerous artists like EGOT holder Jennifer Hudson, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Ledisi, Maverick City Music, and the list goes on.
But most importantly, four HBCUs took over the South Lawn to perform and celebrate Juneteenth. Fisk Jubilee Singers, Hampton University Concert Choir, The Magnificent Marching Machine from Morgran State, and Tennessee State’s Aristocrat of Bands all put on a show.
Fisk Jubilee Singers and Aristocrat of Bands
These two-Tennessee HBCUs are known for making a statement wherever they go. Originally formed in 1871, the Fisk Jubilee Singers utilize their harmonic voices to sing Negro Spirituals across the globe. The Grammy-winning group includes vocal artists and students at Fisk University.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers broke racial barriers in the late 19th century, and entertained royalty in Europe while raising funds for their school. They were featured in a PBS documentary in 1999 and made history with a journey to Ghana in 2007. One of their most notable accomplishments was in 2008; receiving the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush.
Fresh from its performance at CMF Fest, Tennessee State’s Aristocrat of Bands packed up again for Washington, DC. This isn’t the first time the band performed at the White House. Back in 2016, the Grammy-winning marching band was invited by former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
This band created history by becoming the first-ever marching band to grace the stage at the renowned Grand Ole Opry.
In a press release from Tennesse State, assistant band director Larry Jenkins said that these moments will be cherished forever by the students and band members.
“From CMA fest to going to the White House, it is out of this world when it comes to the impact this makes nationally and internationally,” Jenkins said. “This gives the students the opportunity to literally make history and have something else to put on their resumes, make connections, and represent the university at the highest level.”
The Magnificent Marching Machine
These past few years, Morgan State’s Magnificent Marching Machine has performed showcased its talents in various high-profile events recently. Aside from its performance for the President, this 152-member band was seen at the 93rd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the 2022 NBA HBCU Classic, and the 2023 Honda Battle of the Bands.
In an interview from The Baltimore Banner, drum major Travis Jones said performing in the Juneteenth concert was another opportunity for HBCUs to be presented to the world one more time. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase the band and to showcase Morgan State’s talent,” said Travis Jones. “Before all this attention, HBCUs weren’t getting the light they deserve until bad things happened. But now, we can reflect and look at all the good things that have happened.”
Hampton University Concert Choir
The Hampton University Concert Choir has earned a well-deserved reputation for its remarkable vocal abilities and captivating performances. With a focus on choral masterworks by renowned American composers, they have established themselves as a distinguished ensemble.
In an article for Hampton University, choir director Omar Dickenson was over the moon about the opportunity to perform in front of President Biden. “This performance not only represents a significant milestone in our journey but also symbolizes the power of music to bring people together, celebrate our shared culture, and honor the rich contributions of the Black community,” said Dickenson. “We are deeply thankful to the President and First Lady for their recognition of the importance of Juneteenth and Black Music Month. We eagerly anticipate delivering a soul-stirring and unforgettable performance that will resonate with audiences, inspire unity, and leave a lasting impact on this momentous occasion.”