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Biden makes new outreach to Black voters as support slips

By AFP - May 17,2024 - Last updated at May 17,2024

US President Joe Biden, flanked by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Charles Q. Brown Jr. (right) and Defence Secreatry Lloyd Austin (left) in Washington, DC, on Thursday (AFP photo)

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden will try to shore up his support among vital Black voters with a days-long series of events starting on Thursday, including a visit to Martin Luther King’s former university.

Democrat Biden relied on African-American voters to help him beat Donald Trump in 2020, but some polls show they are increasingly deserting him ahead of November’s rematch with the Republican.

On Thursday Biden, 81, will mark the 70th anniversary of a famous US Supreme Court ruling that overturned racial school segregation by meeting with key figures in the case in the Oval Office.

They include Adrienne Jennings Bennett, one of the plaintiffs in the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education case that proved a milestone for the US civil rights movement, the White House said.

A day later, Biden will visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington to give remarks to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the judgement.

Later on Friday Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris — the first Black, South Asian and female “veep” in US history — will meet leaders from nine historically Black sororities and fraternities. 

Biden would “honour the legacy of those who paved the way for progress and hard-fought rights for black Americans”, said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

“He will also highlight his vision for how we must continue to build on these freedoms,” added Jean-Pierre, who is the first Black person to serve in the role.


Poll blow for Biden


Then on Sunday Biden will address new students at the historically Black Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, whose most famous former student is civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

Biden has a bust of King in the Oval Office in a sign of his support for racial equality, which he frequently contrasts with what he says is racially insensitive and anti-immigrant language by his rival Trump. 

His visit to Morehouse is politically sensitive, however, as US campuses and graduation ceremonies have recently been disrupted by widespread protests against Biden’s support for Israel’s War in Gaza.

A senior White House official met students and faculty members at the college on Friday to discuss objections on campus to him delivering the so-called commencement address, NBC News reported.

Biden’s events reaching out to Black voters also come days after a New York Times/Siena poll showed that in addition to trailing Trump in several key battleground states, he is also losing ground with Black voters.

Trump is winning more than 20 per cent of Black voters in the poll — which would be the highest level of Black support for a Republican presidential candidate since the Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964, the New York Times said.

A number of other polls have also shown Biden’s support lagging with Black voters.

By contrast in 2020, Black voters were overwhelmingly loyal to the Democratic Party, with 92 per cent voting for Biden and only 8 per cent for Trump, according to the Pew Research Centre.

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