“I did not walk in the shoes of generations of students who walked these grounds, but I walked other grounds,” Biden said in a speech on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University on Tuesday, joking, “Because I’m so damn old, I was there as well.”
“You think I’m kidding,” he continued in remarks at the historically black Atlanta colleges. “It seems like yesterday the first time I got arrested.”
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Biden has previously claimed to have marched in the civil rights movement as a student in the 1960s and said Tuesday of the struggles of activists in the South, “They’re the ones that opened my eyes as a high school student, the late ’50s and early ’60s.”
He made similar assertions during his failed presidential bid in 1987.
“I came out of the civil rights movement. I was one of those guys who sat-in and marched and all that stuff,” Biden said at the time.
But he later disavowed the claim, clarifying his involvement after leaving the race and stating that he was “not an activist.”
“I was not down marching. I was not down in Selma. I was not anywhere else. I was a suburbanite kid who got a dose of exposure to what was happening to black Americans in my own city,” he said.
Biden reprised the claim during the last presidential election, however, and said that he had also been arrested, including once while visiting with Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
“This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid. I had the great honor of meeting him. I had the great honor of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Robben Island,” Biden told voters at a South Carolina campaign event in 2020.
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According to a Washington Post tally, Biden had told the story publicly at least three times.
When asked about it during an interview with CNN, Biden conceded that he was not arrested, saying, “I wasn’t arrested, I was stopped. I was not able to move where I wanted to go.”