President Trump bowed to pressure Friday night and announced that he would delay his upcoming campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., rather than hold it on the day that honors the end of slavery in the United States and is considered a major holiday by many Black Americans.
The rally was originally set for next Friday, or June 19, the date known as Juneteenth, which marks the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Texas and read the Emancipation Proclamation announcing that slaves had been freed, the last of the Confederate states to officially receive the news.
The Trump campaign’s decision to hold a rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa, the site of one of the country’s bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence, generated vociferous criticism amid the national reckoning over race and justice in the United States following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. In a Twitter message shortly before midnight, Trump said he would move the rally to June 20 instead.
“We had previously scheduled our #MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for June 19th — a big deal,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, however, this would fall on the Juneteenth Holiday. Many of my African-American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents. I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests.”
Democrats pounced on the original timing and location to denounce Trump for disrespecting the concerns of those calling for major changes in American society to address racism and police violence.
According to Republicans close to the president, the campaign was aware of the significance of the date once it announced the site but not before the site was selected. Once it was done, the campaign decided to move ahead, announcing the date before its contract with the event venue in Tulsa was even finalized, people briefed on the events said.
Juneteenth has been celebrated by Black Americans since the late 1800s.
But in recent years, and particularly following nationwide protests over police brutality and the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black people this year, there is a renewed interest in the day that celebrates freedom.
Here’s a brief guide to what you should know about Juneteenth.
What is Juneteenth?
On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform slaves of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than 2½ years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.
The holiday received its name by combining June and 19. The day is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”
Why has Juneteenth become so important this year?
Following the filmed killing of George Floyd, thousands of people around the United States have poured onto the streets in protest. Floyd’s name, as well as the names of Taylor, Arbery, David McAtee, and others, have become rallying cries for change across the country.
That change has come in waves. In Minneapolis, officials banned the use of chokeholds and strangleholds by police, and said officers must intervene and report any use of unauthorized force.
Democrats in Congress unveiled sweeping legislation targeting misconduct and racial discrimination by the police. The bill is the most expansive intervention into policing that lawmakers have proposed in recent memory.
Why about the location?
For the first time since the coronavirus outbreak shut down most of the country, Trump will return to the campaign trail. He had planned a rally in Tulsa on June 19. In 1921, the city was the site of one of country’s worst episodes of racist violence, when white mobs attacked a wealthy black business district known as Black Wall Street. The mobs destroyed more than 1,200 homes and killed as many as 300 people.
The announcement drew ire from Trump’s critics.
“This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists — he’s throwing them a welcome home party,” Senator Kamala Harris of California tweeted. In response to the backlash, Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, touted Trump’s “solid record of success” for Black Americans.
Asked in an interview with Fox News on Friday if the rally was set on June 19 on purpose, Trump said no.
“The fact that I’m having a rally on that day, you can really think about that very positively as a celebration,” he said, adding, “It wasn’t done for that reason. But it’s an interesting date.”
Melanye Price, a political science professor at Prairie View A&M University, a historically Black university in Texas, called the planned rally on Juneteenth a “slap in the face.”