President Trump has repeatedly claimed he has done more for Black Americans than any president since — or, on occasion, including — Abraham Lincoln. Now he is adding yet another sterling accomplishment to his long list: He taught the country about Juneteenth.
“I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous,” Trump tells The Wall Street Journal. “It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.”
As is usually the case when Trump says nobody knows something, many people in fact do know it, but Trump did not until extremely recently. This is why his campaign hastily rescheduled a rally originally proposed for June 19.
The holiday, marking the end of slavery, has existed for more than 150 years, though it is observed more widely in the South than other regions. The last four presidents have all issued official statements to observe it.
During the Journal interview, Trump paused to ask a nearby aide if she had heard of it before, and was told his White House had put out an official statement. “Oh really? We put out a statement? The Trump White House put out a statement?” Trump said, with apparent surprise, “Okay, okay. Good.”
It is true that Juneteenth has received more attention this year than in the past. That is due to the sudden increase in awareness of systemic racism among non-Black Americans. The most direct cause of that increase is the murder of George Floyd, though widespread scenes of aggression against protesters by police have contributed. As has Trump laying the groundwork with years of racist demagoguery and reversals of the modest steps toward police reform undertaken by his predecessor.
In that sense, Trump has caused more people to become aware of Juneteenth, just as he has caused more people to become aware of the 25th Amendment, the Emoluments Clause, narcissistic personality disorder, “democratic backsliding,” the two-thirds threshold required for impeachment, and other concepts that had largely been excluded from daily news coverage. This has not been an era of progress. But it has been a time of enlightenment.