Frederick Douglass Really Did Do An “Amazing Job”

Update #2: Check out my latest at The Daily Beast. Update: David Graham shares his thoughts about Trump’s confusing and disappointing observations about Black History Month.

President Donald Trump kicked off Black History Month this morning with the following remarks:

Well, the election, it came out really well. Next time we’ll triple the number or quadruple it. We want to get it over 51, right? At least 51.

Well this is Black History Month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get-together. Hi Lynn, how are you? Just a few notes. During this month, we honor the tremendous history of African-Americans throughout our country. Throughout the world, if you really think about it, right? And their story is one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work, and faith in America. I’ve gotten a real glimpse—during the campaign, I’d go around with Ben to a lot of different places I wasn’t so familiar with. They’re incredible people. And I want to thank Ben Carson, who’s gonna be heading up HUD. That’s a big job. That’s a job that’s not only housing, but it’s mind and spirit. Right, Ben? And you understand, nobody’s gonna be better than Ben.

Last month, we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. It turned out that that was fake news. Fake news. The statue is cherished, it’s one of the favorite things in the—and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln, and we have Jefferson, and we have Dr. Martin Luther King. But they said the statue, the bust of Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is. Very unfortunate.

I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.

I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more. The folks at the table in almost all cases have been great friends and supporters. Darrell—I met Darrell when he was defending me on television. And the people that were on the other side of the argument didn’t have a chance, right? And Paris has done an amazing job in a very hostile CNN community. He’s all by himself. You’ll have seven people, and Paris. And I’ll take Paris over the seven. But I don’t watch CNN, so I don’t get to see you as much as I used to. I don’t like watching fake news. But Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you.

We’re gonna need better schools and we need them soon. We need more jobs, we need better wages, a lot better wages. We’re gonna work very hard on the inner city. Ben is gonna be doing that, big league. That’s one of the big things that you’re gonna be looking at. We need safer communities and we’re going to do that with law enforcement. We’re gonna make it safe. We’re gonna make it much better than it is right now. Right now it’s terrible, and I saw you talking about it the other night, Paris, on something else that was really—you did a fantastic job the other night on a very unrelated show.

I’m ready to do my part, and I will say this: We’re gonna work together. This is a great group, this is a group that’s been so special to me. You really helped me a lot. If you remember I wasn’t going to do well with the African-American community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and lots of other things, we ended up getting—and I won’t go into details—but we ended up getting substantially more than other candidates who had run in the past years. And now we’re gonna take that to new levels. I want to thank my television star over here—Omarosa’s actually a very nice person, nobody knows that. I don’t want to destroy her reputation but she’s a very good person, and she’s been helpful right from the beginning of the campaign, and I appreciate it. I really do. Very special.

So I want to thank everybody for being here.

Does Trump even realize that Frederick Douglass is no longer alive? It sounds as if Trump is talking about someone he just appointed to a cabinet position.

I guess we should be relieved that the president didn’t have H.K. Edgerton sitting next to him to invoke the thousands of black Confederates that fought loyally for the Confederacy. I hope I never have to hear again that this generation of students doesn’t care or know anything about American history.

Perhaps this year it would have been better for the president to just ignore Black History Month entirely. Correction, make that the next four years.

28 comments… add one
  • bob carey Feb 3, 2017 @ 3:52

    What truly frightens me about this event is that any executive of any organization,large or small, must make certain decisions based on the history of that organization. President Trump appears to have very little knowledge of this country’s history and any decisions made based on this minimal knowledge will be flawed at best and catastrophic at worst. We can only hope that his advisors have a better understanding of US history and that their advice is heeded.

  • hankc9174 Feb 2, 2017 @ 16:35

    we can always hope the President will be like my high school friend who won most improved player’ three years in a row.

    seriously, when he starts talking of ‘we’ and stops using ‘they’ and ‘them’, we may get somewhere.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 2, 2017 @ 16:59

      Don’t hold your breadth.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Feb 2, 2017 @ 6:57

    To this point, I’ve always believed that while every president (or any politician, for that matter) may not be big on history, they would have some person on their staff who was knowledgeable and could write statements for them so at last they could sound like they knew what they were talking about. How hard would it have been to find somebody who could have written his for him:

    Today, we begin the celebration of African-American History month. Though these accomplishments are an integral part of American history every day, this February is a time to remember people like Frederick Douglass. The born into slavery, he escaped that horrible institution, wrote his account of it, and even after slavery ended, he never stopped working towards the American idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    And what’s more sad than anything else is that none of the Black people in the room with trump seemed to have anything to say about his obvious cluelessness.

  • Joyce Harrison Feb 2, 2017 @ 6:11

    They’re going to town on Twitter: #TrumpOnBlackHistory.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 2, 2017 @ 6:13

      It’s pretty hilarious. I have a piece on this coming out this morning at The Daily Beast.

  • Ted McKnight Feb 1, 2017 @ 16:33

    This is Kevin’s site, where he can post what he pleases, but I fail to see what this thread has to do with Civil War Memories.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2017 @ 17:24

      Really? Is Frederick Douglass not relevant to Civil War memory?

      • Bryan Cheeseboro Feb 1, 2017 @ 19:19

        Sadly, Ted is not alone in his lack of understanding of Frederick Douglass’ very vital role in the Civil War Era. Growing up in Washington, DC, I learned about Douglass by the third grade. But when I went to college in the Midwest, I was in a pre-Civil War history class (300-level, as I recall) and a student asked the professor who Frederick Douglass was. I couldn’t believe this guy didn’t know.

        Trump appears to be one of those people who ca’t see the success of African-Americans beyond a handful of celebrities whom he has impressed. Apparently, Alec Baldwin’s joke about Trump thinking all of “the Blacks” live on one street in Chicago- Hell Street- isn’t too far off in reality.

        • Kevin Levin Feb 2, 2017 @ 2:37

          Keep in mind that his understanding of Lincoln, who he claims to admire, isn’t much better.

          Well, I think Lincoln succeeded for numerous reasons. He was a man who was of great intelligence, which most presidents would be. But he was a man of great intelligence, but he was also a man that did something that was a very vital thing to do at that time. Ten years before or 20 years before, what he was doing would never have even been thought possible. So he did something that was a very important thing to do, and especially at that time. And Nixon failed, I think to a certain extent, because of his personality. You know? It was just that personality. Very severe, very exclusive. In other words, people couldn’t come in. And people didn’t like him. I mean, people didn’t like him.

          Very important, indeed.

          • Bryan Cheeseboro Feb 2, 2017 @ 3:22

            His comments about historic figures sound like “C minus” answers- a general idea but they don’t really say anything substantive.

            • Kevin Levin Feb 2, 2017 @ 3:25

              As I suggested in a piece just sent to The Daily Beast, Trump has no use for history unless it directly impacts himself.

      • Ted McKnight Feb 2, 2017 @ 4:36

        As evidenced by the replies, the post was not about F. Douglas, but about D Trump.
        I have read numerous books about Douglas and admire his accomplishments. Trump not so much.

        • Kevin Levin Feb 2, 2017 @ 4:38

          The post was about the president’s utter ignorance about American history, including Frederick Douglass. Replies often go in different directions.

        • Bryan Cheeseboro Feb 2, 2017 @ 6:44

          Glad to hear you admire the accomplishments of a very important African-American. Unfortunately, you missed it that his name is spelled Douglass (note the second “s”), not Douglas.

        • Msb Feb 2, 2017 @ 12:12

          No, the post was about an obviously ignorant reference to an important person in 19th century American history, included in an obviously ignorant and dismissive speech supposedly celebrating Black History Month.

  • Allen Edelstein Feb 1, 2017 @ 12:58

    Did this man ever graduate from high school. He sounds like a child who can’t finish explaining one idea before starting another. And he seems to have a very limited number of adjectives in his vocabulary, perhaps five. Phillip Roth got it so right calling what Trump speaks not English but Jerkish. My God what an image he presents to the rest of the world for the US. And then we go to his knowledge of history!

  • Michael E. Amaral Feb 1, 2017 @ 11:04

    Good thing Ben Carson was with him….he probably thought he would need a translator.

  • Shoshana Bee Feb 1, 2017 @ 10:41

    Oh, gawd: my German e-pal is going to annihilate me over this one. He rants endlessly about how little of world history US citizens know. Now it will be patently obvious that “we” (yes, “we” all have to answer for Trump, abroad) don’t know squat about our own history, either.

  • Phil R Feb 1, 2017 @ 9:49

    This is a parody, right? There’s no way he could have really said this.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2017 @ 9:52

      I wish. It’s a mishmash of disconnected and unfinished thoughts.

      • Bryan Cheeseboro Feb 1, 2017 @ 12:28

        I seriously think Trump is ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), very much associated with “disconnected and mishmashed thoughts.” It would explain a lot from other comments he has made. ADD is very common and a lot of people have it and don’t even know it. If he has it, he may not even be aware. Still, it’s no excuse to be an asshole.

    • James Harrigan Feb 1, 2017 @ 10:37

      Of course he really said this. Parodying Trump is a hopeless task.

      Trump has no fixed views about public policy, and precious few views about anything beyond his own self-aggrandizement. But he has been quite consistent his entire life in showing the contempt he has for black people, and today’s remarks are perfectly consistent with that.

      • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2017 @ 10:40

        Right. His understanding of black history is as superficial as his understanding of the African American community today. They all, supposedly, live in violent inner-city neighborhoods.

  • Kate Feb 1, 2017 @ 9:26

    Considering that he celebrated MLK Day by disrespecting John Lewis, I can’t say I’m at all surprised by this. The only good people are the one’s who stroke Trump’s ego.

  • Joyce Harrison Feb 1, 2017 @ 9:19

    My takeaway: “The black people seated at this table are going to show the drug-addicted, criminal underachievers [i.e., the rest of the black people in America] a thing or two. But be sure to watch it unfold on Fox News and not on CNN. And I’m not sure whether or not Frederick Douglass is still alive.”
    I am sad, embarrassed, and infuriated.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2017 @ 9:23

      I honestly don’t believe that Trump could place Douglass in the right century if challenged.

      • Ken Noe Feb 2, 2017 @ 11:01

        If there’s a bright side, at least he didn’t place Douglass at Manassas, counting “black Confederates” with his abacus. Maybe next year.

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