President Trump took credit for popularizing Juneteenth in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, stating that no one had ever heard of the June 19 holiday commemorating the emancipation of black slaves in the U.S. before he scheduled a political rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on that day, claiming, “I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous.”
Trump initially scheduled his first campaign rally in months for June 19 in Tulsa, but later rescheduled to June 20 “out of respect for this holiday.”
In Wednesday’s WSJ interview, Trump said a black Secret Service agent told him the meaning of Juneteenth when the president initially faced criticism following his announcement of the rally.
Also fueling criticism of the rally is that Tulsa was the site of a massacre in 1921 in which mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses in a section of the city referred to as “Black Wall Street.”
Speaking of Juneteenth, Trump told the WSJ, “It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.”
The Trump administration has put out statements on Juneteenth in each of his first three years in office.
“Oh really? We put out a statement? The Trump White House put out a statement?” Trump said when informed of this fact. “Ok, ok. Good.”
When asked whether he believed that systemic racism existed in America, Trump said, “I’d like to think there is not, but unfortunately, there probably is some. I would also say it’s very substantially less than it used to be.” Per the Wall Street Journal, Trump expressed interest in rooting out racism in the U.S. and said his plan to heal the country’s racial wounds exposed by the death of George Floyd and other high-profile cases of police brutality was to build a strong economy. However, Trump also said he had no regrets over his controversial tweet at the start of the protests that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The president said the tweet could be read as either a threat or a fact. Asked how he intended it, Mr. Trump said, “a combination of both.”
According to the Washington Post, celebrations of Juneteenth began in 1866 and has its roots in the emancipation in Texas, where more than 250,000 enslaved black people received news on June 19, 1865, that they were finally free. It is considered the most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States. In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday. Today, 47 states and the District of Columbia commemorate or observe the holiday.