The president, often known for crediting himself with the accomplishments of others, achieved a new low on Thursday when he claimed he popularized Juneteenth — the holiday that commemorates the abolition of slavery. Trump says he made it famous after his campaign planned a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on that day. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Trump stated, “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.”
Apparently, nobody had ever heard of Juneteenth — a day commemorating the end of slavery now more than 150 years old that has long been celebrated by millions of Black Americans — until President Donald Trump made it famous. And he has, as a result, attempted to Columbus this holiday.
Trump went on to explain how he asked several people if they had heard of the holiday (they hadn’t), and was later made aware by an aide that the White House has put out Juneteenth statements every year of his presidency. “Oh really? We put out a statement? The Trump White House put out a statement?” he asked. “Ok, ok. Good.”
But for those outside of Trump’s orbit, Juneteenth is a significant and historic holiday that’s been celebrated for years. Juneteenth is currently recognized as a state holiday by 47 states and the District of Columbia, though legislation to make it a national holiday has stalled in Congress for years.
Celebrations of the holiday started in 1866, one year after Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Texas with more than 2,000 Union troops with news that slavery had been abolished. There, he announced that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States” all enslaved people would be free. The 13th Amendment, which formally abolished slavery, was later ratified on December 6, 1865. Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday on January 1, 1980.
But in case it wasn’t already obvious, no, Trump did not popularize the holiday. He didn’t even know his own White House has made statements in celebration of Juneteenth for the last three years. For someone who claims to be the “least racist person,” he’s centered himself in discussions about a holiday celebrated by the Black community in the most ignorant way possible. Despite his claims that he popularized Juneteenth, the president said in the same interview that removing the names of Confederate officers from Army bases would further divide the country, and has repeatedly denounced the removal of Confederate monuments. And people on Twitter were quick to notice.
“I made Juneteenth very famous” is something a racist would say.
— profloumoore (@loumoore12) June 18, 2020
Donald Trump on Juneteenth, today: “Nobody had ever heard of it.”
Donald Trump on Juneteenth, 2019: “Melania and I send our best wishes for a memorable celebration to all those commemorating Juneteenth.” pic.twitter.com/n0NW84kWkG
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) June 18, 2020
— Dan Lavoie (@djlavoie) June 18, 2020
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