WASHINGTON — During an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, President Donald Trump claimed he "made Juneteenth very famous” by initially scheduling a campaign rally on that day.
“I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous,” Trump said. “It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.”
On Friday, the White House released a statement from the president and First Lady Melania Trump with a different message and tone.
"This Juneteenth, we commit, as one Nation, to live true to our highest ideals and to build always toward a freer, stronger country that values the dignity and boundless potential of all Americans," the official statement said.
Juneteenth, June 19, celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. The occasion is often recognized by President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. But the holiday commemorating the freedom of African Americans, Juneteenth -- June 19, was recognized only after the last slaves were told about the president’s order nearly 2 1/2 years later.
On June 19, 1865, Union troops led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War was over, and that all remaining slaves were free.
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Trump originally had a rally scheduled for Friday, June 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. However, after backlash and criticism, he moved the event to June 20.
In the Wall Street Journal interview, Trump said a Black Secret Service agent told him the meaning of Juneteenth. He said he asked people around him if they knew about the holiday, but said no one had heard of it.
“We had previously scheduled our #MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for June 19th – a big deal. Unfortunately, however, this would fall on the Juneteenth Holiday,” the president tweeted on June 12.
“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.”
The interview covered a wide range of topics with the president including his response to the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, China, the killing of George Floyd my a police officer in Minneapolis and a new book about to be released by his former National-Security Adviser John Bolton.