Donald Trump changes election rally date from Juneteenth in Tulsa, the site of a massacre
US President Donald Trump says he has shifted the date of his first campaign rally away from a day commemorating the end of slavery on the advice of his African American friends.
- Tulsa was the 1921 site of one of the bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence in US history
- Mr Trump suspended his political rallies in March due to the coronavirus pandemic
- Mr Trump said what Abraham Lincoln had done was “questionable”
On Friday local time, Mr Trump said he would shift the date of his Oklahoma rally from June 19, the date of the Juneteenth African American freedom day, to June 20.
“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,” Mr Trump tweeted.
On June 19, 1865, Texas became the last of the pro-slavery Confederate states forced to comply with president Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War declaring all people held as slaves free.
Mr Trump’s rally will now be held a day later but still in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of one of the bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence in US history.
In the city in 1921, white mobs massacred black residents and destroyed black businesses.
Before his change of heart, Mr Trump, referring to the rally on the original date, told Fox News in an interview: “Think about it as a celebration.”
Mr Trump received plenty of criticism including from the Fox News interviewer Harris Faulkner, who is black, and later said she was not sure whether Mr Trump was aware of the painful history of Tulsa for African Americans.
“This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists — he’s throwing them a welcome home party,” US senator Kamala Harris, a contender to be Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s vice-presidential pick, wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Mr Trump said scheduling the Tulsa rally on Juneteenth was not deliberate.
The Republican President suspended his political rallies in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The rally will take place against a backdrop of nationwide protests against racism and police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The officer was fired and has been charged with second-degree murder.
Trump ‘takes a pass’ on Abraham Lincoln
Mr Trump, who this week rejected calls to rename US military bases named for Confederate military figures, said in the Fox News interview that what Abraham Lincoln had done was “questionable”, but was cut off before he could elaborate.
“I think I’ve done more for the black community than any other president. And let’s take a pass on Abraham Lincoln because he did good, although it’s always questionable. You know, in other words the end result,” Mr Trump said without explanation.
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Mr Faulkner then spoke over him saying: “But we are free, Mr President. He did pretty well.”
“We are free. You understand what I mean. I’m going to take a pass on Abe — Honest Abe as we call him,” Mr Trump responded.
Democrats and other critics have accused Mr Trump of stoking racial divisions.
The President said during the George Floyd protests, in which looting occurred in some cities, that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.
Mr Trump told Fox News he was not aware that this phrase originated with a white segregationist who was Miami mayor in the 1960s.
On Thursday, the Republican party scheduled Mr Trump’s speech to formally accept its presidential nomination for August 27 in Jacksonville, Florida.
That day will mark the 60th anniversary of what is called “Axe Handle Saturday”, when a white mob wielding tools began a riot over black youth attempting to order food from a whites-only lunch counter in Jacksonville.