President Donald Trump this week in an interview with the Wall Street Journal congratulated himself saying, “I did something good…I made Juneteenth very famous. It’s actually an important event, it’s an important time. But nobody had heard of it.”Except of course many Americans know well what Juneteenth is, and black communities in particular have marked the day June 19th 1865 when a group of enslaved African Americans were finally told of the news of the emancipation proclamation that ensured their freedom – almost two and a half years after it was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
This year, as America has a historic reckoning on issues of race, racism, police brutality, and racist violence, Juneteenth takes on an added significance – not just because Trump initially decided to hold his first campaign rally in months on Juneteeth in Tulsa, Oklahoma—but because most Americans are finally embracing the idea that Black Lives Matter.
Dr. Yohuru Wlliams is the Dean and McQuinn Distinguished Chair of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of several books including Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Black Panthers in New Haven, and Rethinking the Black Freedom Movement. His forthcoming book is In the Shadow of the Whipping Post: Lynching, Capital Punishment, and Jim Crow Justice in Delaware 1865-1965.
I spoke with Dr. Williams this week to connect the dots between Juneteenth, the 1920 Duluth lynchings in Minnesota and the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma massacre of hundreds or thousands of African Americans by a racist white mob. Dr. Williams expertly framed the current national uprising against racist police violence within the historical backdrop marked by these three major pieces of America's sordid past.
Watch Dr. Williams' interview on Rising Up With Sonali: