The Trump administration announced this week that its first in-person campaign rally since the coronavirus lockdown will occur in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 19th – a day celebrated by many Americans as the day that marked the end of slavery in the United States.
Noliwe Rooks, professor of American studies at Cornell University, and is an expert on the role of segregation in the American society, particularly in education and the economy. She says the selection of June 19th for a campaign rally could inflame tensions if the U.S. government does not address past injustice and commit to justice for all.
“The fact that President Trump has chosen to resume his campaign events in support of his reelection in Tulsa, Oklahoma on the 19th of June, known as Juneteenth, encapsulates, and indeed inflames, the tensions at the heart of the global protests decrying unchecked acts of murderous police aggression against Black people in the United States.
“Tulsa became the site of one of the most brutal massacres of Black men, women and children and began when police allowed a mob of white men to remove and lynch a Black man held in police custody. The mob grew and over three days killed hundreds of people, burned every Black home and destroyed personal property, leaving thousands of Black people who had built a prosperous enclave known as Black Wall Street homeless.
“Juneteenth commemorates the day that enslaved Black people in Texas were told of their freedom almost two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had freed them. Slave owners simply ignored the law and disregarded the fact that slavery was over.
“A presidential visit and event in Tulsa without repudiating current and past generations of violence aimed at Black people compounds the tragedies we have recently witnessed, just as surely as holding an event on a date that marks the end of chattel slavery in the United States requires a full-throated rededication of the United States government to justice for all. If the White House does not know the significance of its actions, there is time for them to correct course.”
Derrick Spires, professor of English, is an expert on black literary history and author of "The Practice of Citizenship: Black Politics and Print Culture in the Early United States." He says that Juneteenth represents a warning to remain vigilant, even as current uprisings offer the possibility of change.
"Juneteenth—June 19, 1865—marks the day when the last collective of enslaved people heard the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, TX, a full two years after Abraham Lincoln delivered it. We must not forget, however, that the Proclamation excluded Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, Missouri and parts of Louisiana and Virginia. National emancipation did not happen until ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865.
We mark Juneteenth as one culminating moment in a long and violent journey to make abolition and equality the policy of the United States. And yet, we cannot forget that the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment were not givens, that both were hotly contested, and that neither addressed the damage enslavement wrought. They were never enough. Even so, as soon as the Civil War ended, Black Americans convened state and national conventions to make sure they had a hand in shaping the reconstituted nation. That white Americans eventually responded to this brilliant burst of black activism with violent retrenchment should serve as a warning to us to remain vigilant, even as current uprisings yield the potential for systemic change.
Juneteenth reminds us of at least three things: 1) the always-belated nature of freedom in the United States, especially for Black people, 2) Black citizen’s persistent determination to make democracy and justice a reality, and 3) the ongoing presence of white backlash to these efforts."