President Joe Biden on Friday warned of an “extreme movement” led by former President Donald Trump as the incumbent president continued a fresh push to reach Black communities this week less than six months from the 2024 election. 

What You Need To Know

  • President Joe Biden on Friday delivered remarks at an NAACP at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and met with the leaders of the Divine Nine
  • The events come during a week in which Biden is ramping up outreach to Black voters 
  • Over the weekend, Biden will travel to Atlanta and Detroit in the swing states of Georgia and Michigan to interact with Black voters, per his campaign, and deliver the commencement speech at Morehouse College 
  • It comes as polls show support for Biden among Black voters may be slipping

“Today, the resistance comes in other insidious forms: an extreme movement led by my predecessor and his MAGA Republican allies, backed by an extreme Supreme Court, gutted affirmative action in college admissions,” Biden said during remarks at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

“My predecessor and his extreme MAGA friends are now going after diversity, equity and inclusion all across America,” he continued. “They want a country for some, not for all.”

The president used his speech, on the 70th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, to announce $20 million in new grants for schools to establish magnet programs bringing in students from different social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. The funds will go to school districts in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas. 

“The Brown decision proves a simple idea: We learn better when we learn together,” Biden said after warning that some in America were trying to rewrite and erase history. 

“And Black history is American history,” the president said.

Leaders of the Divine Nine, a group of historically Black sororities and fraternities, line up for a picture outside the West Wing ahead of their meeting with President Joe Biden on Friday, May 17, 2024 (Spectrum News)
Leaders of the Divine Nine, a group of historically Black sororities and fraternities, line up for a picture outside the West Wing ahead of their meeting with President Joe Biden on Friday, May 17, 2024 (Spectrum News)

Biden’s speech Friday morning in front of members of the NAACP as well as other civil rights and education leaders was followed by an Oval Office meeting, that included Vice President Kamala Harris, with leaders of the Divine Nine, a group of historically Black sororities and fraternities. Harris was a member of such a sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha.

“This is the first administration in the history that has engaged the Divine Nine at the level that he's been engaging us,” Chris Rey, international president of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. said in an interview with Spectrum News ahead of the meeting on Friday. 

“Today, when we walk into the Oval Office today, it will be the first time in the history of this nation that a president has invited all nine of the sitting presidents to the White House to sit and talk about these issues because he understands the reach and impact that our organizations have,” he continued.  

Rey said what he is most hoping to hear from the commander in chief is an explanation of his agenda, goals and plan for a second term and what it means for Black communities. 

“We want to understand what is the path forward if given a second term,” Rey said. “I think that's important for us to understand and know so that we can take that information back to our constituents,” he said, noting the Divine Nine in total represents more than two million people. 

“How is each stage of your life going to be impacted by this administration?” he said. “Those are the conversations we want to have with the president. 

Marica Harris, international vice president of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., added that the group represents a range of members with diverse concerns, such as veterans and educators, which the leaders will bring up to the president on Friday. 

“We're also here to share with the president our concerns from our members as well, from our high school students to our senior citizens,” she said. “The impact that this administration has had on their overall day to day ability to just live.”

Friday’s events are part of a week filled with ramped-up outreach to Black communities from Biden's White House. 

On Thursday, the president hosted plaintiffs from the Brown v. Board of Education case and their family members in the Oval Office to mark the anniversary of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision, which outlawed racial segregation in public schools. That day, White House Director of Public Engagement Steve Benjamin announced the administration has designated more than $16 billion in federal funds to go toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities over Biden’s time in office. 

Over the weekend, Biden will travel to Atlanta and Detroit in the swing states of Georgia and Michigan. In Georgia, the president will participate in an event with Black voters, according to his reelection campaign, before delivering the commencement address at Morehouse College, a historically Black men’s college, on Sunday. 

Later that day, he will visit a local Black-owned small business in Michigan before delivering the keynote address at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner. 

It comes as polls show support for Biden among Black voters may be slipping. A poll from The New York Times, Siena College and The Philadelphia Inquirer released this week showed former President Donald Trump, Biden’s likely 2024 Republican rival, bringing in more than 20% support when those surveyed were asked to choose between Biden and Trump – a figure that would be a new high for a GOP nominee. 

A survey from The Wall Street Journal released earlier this year found 30% of Black men and 11% of Black women said they will likely support Trump in 2024. That marked an increase, the Wall Street Journal noted in its poll findings, from the 12% and the 6% respectively who supported the former president in 2020 according to AP VoteCast.

A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found just over half of Black Americans said they approve of Biden’s handling of his job in March while 45% said they disapprove. 

“Oh, he should be worried about black voters, he absolutely should,” Republican Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida told Spectrum News on Friday. “But the problem is no speech Joe Biden's gonna give is going to change the fact that he has wrecked the economy for all Americans. Inflation is massively high, hurting everybody. "

Asked about the poll numbers on Friday, Rey emphasized it takes time for the president’s policies to be felt by people on the ground and that the administration needs to make sure it is explaining that to communities. 

“Even though there may have been a bill that was passed that we know was going to invest billions of dollars into the infrastructure of this country, which we know was going to create jobs, and we know that's going to be able to create opportunities for families – it takes time for the bill, once has been passed, for the money to be allocated, and then to get to the districts and then eventually for the jobs to be bidded on,” Rey said. 

“I think that the administration has to look at its strategy on how it communicates the process of the work that they're doing,” he added. 

International president of Iota Phi Theta, Inc., Dr. Sean D. Housen, Sr., told Spectrum News that the leaders of the Divine Nine play an important role in that line of communication. 

“We're going to get that message and we're going to be able to bring it back to them so they can understand what's going on and what's going to happen and what could happen in the future,” he said. “That's why we're here, to make sure that we can bring it back to them.”

Rey emphasized the White House's coordination and engagement with the Divine Nine is consistent, noting leaders met with Harris previously and receive briefings on a regular basis. 

“[It’s] not just because it's election season now the president decided he wanted to meet with us, he has literally been reaching out over the last three years,” he said. 

All three leaders emphasized that at the end of the day, the most important message they are trying to get across to their members is to use their voice and vote – no matter who for. 

“If you don't like what this administration is doing, then go vote against the administration,” Rey said. “We want folks to exercise their right.”