Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock

Michigan has recognized the holiday for 15 years.

MICHIGAN — In a time where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and President Donald Trump have struck dramatically different tones on race relations, they also have approached Juneteenth in markedly different ways.

June 19, known as Juneteenth, is the anniversary of the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas, 155 years ago. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, it took until 1865 for slaves in Texas to finally be free. As a result, Juneteenth is the most widely celebrated day to honor Black people’s resilience and the end of slavery. 

“Juneteenth is a crucial day in our nation’s history to remember how far we have come and recognize how far we still have to go,”  said Gov. Whitmer. “During a time when communities of color are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and when the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have shone a light on the systemic racism Black Americans face every day, we must work together to build a more equitable and just Michigan.”

Whitmer has issued Juneteenth holiday proclamations every year she’s been in office, and on Wednesday she released this year’s message commemorating the holiday. Michigan has legally recognized Juneteenth since 2005. 

“I’m proud to declare June 19, 2020 as Juneteenth Celebration Day, and will continue to work tirelessly to create a state that is equal for all,” she said.  

Michigan and Gov. Whitmer’s commitment to honoring Juneteenth stands in stark contrast to President Donald Trump and his administration. Trump originally planned a rally for today in Tulsa, Oklahoma, because, as the New York Times reports, it seemed easy. The city has a Republican mayor, in a deep-red state and has managed to mitigate the ongoing pandemic. 

The problem, the Times notes, is that Trump had chosen Juneteenth for his big return to rallies during a time of historic protests over police violence against Black people, in a city known for a devastating racist massacre in an area known as Black Wall Street in 1921.

“This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists—he’s throwing them a welcome home party,” tweeted Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California). 

As the Times reported, this rally date and location was not an intentional statement on race, but was simply a matter of ignorance. Trump then told the Wall Street Journal that he made the holiday famous.

“I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous,” he said in reference to the news coverage of the planned rally. “It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.”

He insisted to the Journal that no one in the White House had ever heard of Juneteenth, and it was only brought to his attention by a Secret Service agent. This despite the White House having issued a statement on Juneteenth last year, as an aide pointed out during the interview.

“Oh, really? We put out a statement? The Trump White House put out a statement?” Trump said. “OK, OK. Good.”

Trump is now holding his rally Saturday evening at Tulsa’s BOK Center.