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Biden returning to Michigan for NAACP dinner in Detroit

Joe Biden using the microphone
Biden is slated to give the keynote address at the Detroit NAACP’s Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner May 19, where he will also be given the organization’s James Weldon Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award. (lev radin /
  • President Joe Biden due back in Michigan on May 19 for the Detroit Branch NAACP’s marquee dinner, at which he spoke as vice president in 2015
  • Detroit voter turnout is considered integral to Biden’s ability to win Michigan in the presidential election
  • Biden and former President Donald Trump have both made repeated visits to Michigan in 2024, a crucial battleground state

LANSING — President Joe Biden is headed to Detroit later this month to attend the 2024 NAACP Detroit Branch Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner, his campaign confirmed to Bridge Michigan Wednesday.

The Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner, set for May 19 at the Huntington Place, has been held since 1956 and is one of the organization’s marquee events, according to the Detroit Branch NAACP, the nation’s largest chapter. The gathering routinely draws thousands of attendees.

“President Biden comes at a critical time in our nation's history,” Detroit Branch NAACP President Wendell Anthony said Wednesday at a press conference. “We face tremendous international challenges coupled with domestic and local issues that seek to divide us. However, it is our belief that if we work together as a people, that we can resolve these issues for the benefit of all Americans.”

March to White House goes through Michigan

As a battleground state, Michigan can expect to see President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump repeatedly throughout the 2024 campaign. Bridge will track their visits, and those of top surrogates, until Election Day. Click on the circles to see who came, when and where.

Anthony told reporters that Biden will be given the organization’s James Weldon Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award, “for a life of dedicated service to the American people.”

The Detroit Branch NAACP calls its annual gathering “the largest sit down dinner of its kind in the world.” In past years, it has featured keynote speakers such as former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton and General Colin Powell.


Confirmation of Biden’s planned visit comes as former President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at MBS airport in Saginaw County on Wednesday evening. Both Biden and Trump have repeatedly visited Michigan over the past year, which is seen as a crucial battleground state in the 2024 presidential election.

Of particular concern for Democrats is the potential for flagging support for Biden among Black voters, a community that has long been regarded in Michigan as a bedrock of votes for the party. 

Biden last visited Michigan March 14, for a brief stop in Saginaw County, which some analysts have begun to consider a bellwether for the state. He drew criticism during that visit for not stopping at a Black church, which reportedly upset some community leaders in the racially diverse area.

Two days after the visit, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans — who told The Detroit News he voted uncommitted in the Feb. 27 presidential primary — said Biden is not doing enough to appeal to voters of color in Michigan.

“Apathy is the biggest problem,” Evans reportedly said. “If you look at the percentage of people who vote and the apathy of African Americans about voting ... that's what will turn the tide. But you've got to get somebody to get them out — and give them a reason to come out. I'm just not really seeing it.”


While Detroit's political influence has waned with declining population, it is still by far the biggest Democratic stronghold in the state. 

    Biden won 94% of the vote in Detroit. Without his 228,047-vote margin in the city, Biden's 154,188-vote Michigan win would have been a 73,859-vote loss. 

    Trump zeroed in on Detroit as part of his false claims the 2020 election was rigged against him. 

    His claim that Detroit was "totally corrupt" -- despite Attorney General William Barr telling him there was "no indication of fraud" in the city -- were cited in a federal indictment accusing Trump of conspiring to defraud the country by overturning the election. 

    In reality, Trump improved his performance in Detroit during the 2020 election. He secured more than 5,000 additional votes than during his 2016 campaign and finished with 5% of the city vote, up from 3% in 2016.

    Statewide, the most recent polling aggregation by the website RealClearPolitics finds Trump 1.2 percentage points ahead of Biden in Michigan, a gap that has narrowed considerably since the beginning of 2024.

    In February, Biden stopped at a Harper Woods restaurant, They Say, to briefly mingle with patrons on his way to visit United Auto Workers members. He also was criticized on that visit for not meeting with Arab-American community leaders frustrated by the U.S. response to Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians have been killed.


    This will not be Biden’s first appearance at the NAACP dinner in Detroit. 

    In 2015, he gave the keynote address as vice president, where according to coverage of the speech in the Michigan Chronicle, he addressed the unrest sparked by police killings of unarmed Black men that had gripped the nation.

    “We must bridge the gap between communities and law enforcement,” the Michigan Chronicle reported Biden saying at the time. “To do so is pretty basic. We need to keep schools open late, give kids a chance to interact with law enforcement officers, and help each side recognize the humanity in the other.”

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