Skip to content

Commemorating Juneteenth

“On this day 150 years ago, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the slaves of Galveston, Texas, finally received word that the Civil War was over. They were free. A century and a half later, Americans still recognize this occasion, Juneteenth, as a symbolic milestone on our journey toward a more perfect union.” - President Obama, June 19, 2015

During their eight years in the White House, President and Mrs. Obama showcased art that depicted important chapters in the American story. These works reminded visitors and staffers of how far we’ve come as a nation and how far we still have to go to create a fair and just society.

“Watch Meeting–Dec. 31st 1862–Waiting for the Hour” is a perfect example of this. William Tolman Carlton’s painting depicts the immediate aftermath of President Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, but Juneteenth is a reminder that there was more work to be done before enslaved African Americans across the country were truly free.

Watch Meeting—Dec. 31st 1862—Waiting for the Hour (1863)

Watch Meeting—Dec. 31st 1862—Waiting for the Hour (1863)

American painter William Tolman Carlton’s Watch Meeting—Dec. 31st 1862—Waiting for the Hour depicts a group of enslaved men, women, and children waiting for President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation the following day. Originally placed in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House, President Obama had it moved to the exterior of the Oval Office in 2013.

In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, White House curator Bill Allman explained the painting and shared why President Obama selected it to hang near the Oval Office:

Catching Up with The Curator: Watch Meeting--Dec. 31st 1862--Waiting for the Hour

Your support turns hope into action

Donate to the Barack Obama Foundation to inspire, empower, and connect the next generation to change their world.

The Barack Obama Foundation is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (EIN 46-4950751).

An illustration of four people with a range of light to deep skin tones lifting one another up on top of a paper plane. The background is pink.

Sign up for the latest on the Obama Foundation

Get the latest news and updates by signing up for Obama Foundation emails. (All fields required.)

More stories

All Stories
The image is a combination of the headshots of Jessica Teal, Laura Olin, and Jeron Smith. From [L to R]: The first person is Jessica Teal: she has pale skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, and is wearing a red short-sleeved shirt. She is smiling at the camera. The second person is Jeron Smith: he has brown skin, closely cut black hair, and a mustache. He is wearing a dark blazer with a white t-shirt underneath. In the background of Jeron's headshot is an industrial set with orange lighting and tall metal beams. The third person is Laura Olin: she has pale skin, blue eyes, and blond hair that hits her shoulders. She is wearing a blue and white shirt and smiling at the camera. Behind Laura are green trees.
  • Presidential History
  • The Arts

Meet the minds behind the design, voice, and digital strategy for the Obama campaign and White House.

Learn more
On a clear blue-sky day, President Obama stands in a hard hat and a brightly colored safety vest at the Obama Presidential construction site and signs a beam. A large group of construction workers with various skin tones also wearing safety clothing surround him.
  • Building the Center
  • Chicago

The Museum Building at the Obama Presidential Center has reached its final height of 225 feet.

Learn more