By Senator Lena C. Taylor
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), it was reported that when it came to Juneteenth Day, neither Donald Trump nor any of his staff seemed to know the meaning of the holiday before the furor over the Tulsa rally. Really…Seriously…Nobody? I mean, Trump has been in office for the past three Juneteenth Holidays. So, were we dreaming when the White House issued a Presidential Message on Juneteenth, last year in 2019? It started something like… “Melania and I send our best wishes for a memorable celebration to all those commemorating Juneteenth”. For the fact checkers, here’s the link: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/presidential-message-juneteenth-2019/.
In 2018, Trump issued the following statement on Juneteenth Day, “This historic moment would not have been possible without the courage and sacrifice of the nearly 200,000 former enslaved and free African Americans who fought for liberty alongside more than two-million Union servicemen,” Trump’s statement read. “These brave individuals fought to defend the God-given rights of those unjustly held in bondage”. For the fact checkers, don’t worry I’ll make it easy: https://time.com/5315914/donald-trump-juneteenth-statement/
In 2017, Trump’s statement in full read “Melania and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Juneteenth, a historic day recognizing the end of slavery.”
Though President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, news traveled slowly from Washington, D.C., to the southern states. More than two years later, on June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger stood on the Ashton Villa balcony in Galveston, Texas, to deliver the belated message of the then-deceased President: all slaves were free.
Granger’s astonishing words inspired soulful festivities and emotional rejoicing. Over the years, as freedmen and freedwomen left Texas, they took Juneteenth and its meaning with them. Today, we celebrate this historic moment in 1865, as we remember our Nation’s fundamental premise that all men and women are created equal”. Just the facts: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/06/19/compare-trumps-juneteenth-statement-to-obamas/103005820/
Yet, in the June 18, 2020 interview with WSJ, Donald Trump stated that when he scheduled a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma for June 19, he didn’t have a clue about the significance of Juneteenth. In fact, he said he only learned what the holiday meant after asking an African American Secret Service agent. As if this story couldn’t get any more ridiculous, Trump was quoted in the newspaper as saying “I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous”. “It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it”.
I’m not going to even touch the significance of Tulsa, Black Wall Street and the massacre. I’m just going to keep praying for Nov. 3. Hopefully, that date will be a day of freedom, as well.