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Juneteenth Celebrations TRANSCRIPT: 6/19/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Swae Lee, Donna Edwards, Philip Rucker, Scott Ellsworth

  SWAE LEE, AMERICAN SINGER: Four hundred people just marching to me like, soon like they`re my gang, like, you know what I am saying, black people, white people, Hispanic people, Asian people, everybody is out there, stay with Swae, stay with Swae, it was just -- it`s such an uplifting feeling, like we are just want the same thing, man, equality and that`s like do the right thing, do the righteous things.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I`m running over my time limit to past the next show, but I love you saying that, that notion of Juneteenth of uplift. And we got the two Lee`s here, Swae Lee, you hooking up with Trymaine Lee, I just hope Slim Jxmmi doesn`t get jealous, you know what I`m saying?

SWAE LEE: Slim Jxmmi, my friend.

TRYMAINE LEE: You know I`m ready, man, I`m ready, let`s go, here we go.

SWAE LEE: Me and Slim Jxmmi, on the way too, Reality Check is the new song. You know I`ve been in a rally.

MELBER: I stand for Reality Check for a new song, and I`m sorry I run late on the hour but it was important, thanks to both of you. That does it for THE BEAT tonight. Good night everybody.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: If the inexpressible cruelty of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Good evening and happy Emancipation Day to all, I`m Joy Reid. And those words, written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter from a Birmingham jail, also expressed the spirit of Juneteenth. The holiday celebrating the date in 1865 when the last enslaved black Americans learned of their freedom, two years after Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation and union troops ended the civil war.

This year`s celebrations were especially poignant across the country, particularly in the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is bracing for a perfect storm tomorrow thanks to none other than Donald Trump, president of the United States.

In Tulsa this afternoon Black Lives Matter protesters marched in celebration of Juneteenth while the MAGA crowd lined up for Trump`s return to the campaign trail tomorrow at a rally originally scheduled for today until Trump backed down.

And with his supporters, Trump brings another crisis in the making, a massive crowd at an indoor rally during a pandemic. Cases of coronavirus are already spiking across the country, particularly in the south, and Oklahoma had its record number of new cases yesterday.

NBC News has learned that Trump`s own public health officials called the rally a bad idea. Doctors Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx both vocalized concerns internally in the last week about the safety of holding a rally with as many as 19,000 people in an enclosed arena.

But team Trump is pushing full speed ahead after a particularly bad week for the White House, including not one but two crushing defeats at the Supreme Court which, of course, meant wins for equality and for DACA recipients. A mounting war of words with his former national security adviser, John Bolton, over his book which is full of revelations about Trump`s incompetence and malfeasance, and today, yet another poll showing how dire Trump`s situation is with America`s voters. The Fox News poll shows, former Vice President Joe Biden expanding his lead over Donald Trump to 12 points, the widest margin so far this year.

So, of course, Trump is throwing it back to the bad old days on this Juneteenth with another George Wallace-style threat to those who don`t support his re-election. He tweeted, any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma, please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene, exclamation point.

I`m joined now by the Reverend Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network and Host of POLITICSNATION, Claire McCaskill, former Democratic Senator from Missour, Donna Edwards, former Democratic Congresswoman of Maryland, and Philip Rucker, White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post.

And, Rev, I want to start with you. Donald Trump goes for the George Wallace card over and over again. And as somebody who is a civil rights leader as well as our colleague and friend here at MSNBC but somebody who`s experienced this firsthand in the streets, as somebody, you know, making those kinds of utterances, you faced them, what do you make of that kind of language coming out of the president of the United States on Juneteenth?

REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: I think that it is offensive. I think that it is insulting and is provocative. There`s been one incident here a few days ago where a man was killed. There`s been threats. Yet people are here in Tulsa where I am going to the festivities here around Juneteenth, and they`re not here as lowlifes. They`re here to, in many ways, commemorate what was done to our forefathers and to say that just like they fought and had to wait two and a half years before it was proclaimed in Texas that they were free, even though the emancipation proclamation had been signed two and a half years before that.

They fought that struggle into reconstruction, into the era of Jim Crow, and kept fighting. We`re in the era of dealing with policing, with dealing with disproportionate health services in the middle of a pandemic, and we are the children of those that have to deal with Juneteenth, and we have the strength to fight and win that fighting with threats, with violence. We`re fighting with pride and dignity to finish the route and to finish the trail our forefathers set, and that`s how you celebrate Juneteenth.

In this city in particular, Joy, where the biggest massacre of that time, 1921, when they leveled off this area where I am and killed hundreds of blacks in what was called Black Wall Street. That is why it is of particular importance that I come spend a few hours with them as they asked me to come, the family of, Terence Crutcher, who was killed by a policeman. They were acquitted and then went to another neighboring county and became a member of law enforcement again in the sheriff`s office. That is indicative of why we need bills passed where you cannot go with people that have a record of bad policing and just continue in law enforcement.

So there is ground zero here in terms of showing the massacre that came after many decades after Juneteenth, but many decades later we`re fighting to make sure that police are subject to the law and not above the law and the president coming.

I think one thing quickly that I would add, it is amazing to me that he is saying he didn`t know what Juneteenth day was. He grew up in New York, which is two-thirds black and Latino. If he didn`t know, it showed his insensitivity and him being out of touch. So either he did know and is not telling the truth or he doesn`t know, which shows that he is culturally deficient and shouldn`t be the president of the United States.

REID: Yes. Well said, Rev. And let me play for you -- I`m going go to you on this, Claire. Donald Trump has a particular attitude toward protests. He`s fine with rallies where people punch people in the face but not with protests. Here he is talking about protesters who showed up to his 2016 campaign MAGA rallies. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Do you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They would be carried out on a stretcher, folks. That`s true.

Here`s a guy throwing punches, nasty as hell, screaming at everything else when we`re talking, and he won`t get out and were not allowed, you know, the guards are very gentle with him. He`s walking out like big high-fives, smiling, laughing, I`d like to punch him in the face, I`ll tell you.

In the good old days, they`d rip him out of that seat so fast.

So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay, just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise.


REID: You know, Claire, he`s very George Wallace. If you go back and you look at all the videos George Wallace`s rallies, even in New York, that`s how he sounded as well. What do you make of Donald Trump potentially bringing that energy to a place like Tulsa that has the history that Tulsa has, you know? What do you make of that?

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he specializes in being combative and confrontational. And, obviously, he doesn`t feel any need to lead or unite in this incredibly painful moment in our country`s history where we are all coming to grips with how badly we have handled systemic racism in this country. And, you know, add to that, Joy, the rally where he was talking to police officers and encouraged them to physically hurt the suspects they were putting in their police cars.

So not only is he embracing physical confrontations, he`s embracing police officers abusing people under their custody and control. And it is outrageous and the fact that he has called off the curfew, it`s almost like he wants there to be a problem, that he wants there to be physical violence, that somehow that will, somehow justify his rally. It is discouraging. And I am really proud of all the people that were there today celebrating Juneteenth. They were socially distancing in a state that is really dangerous right now in terms of coronavirus. You won`t see that kind of social distancing at the rally. You`ll see people gleefully putting other people at risk.

REID: It is strange. And I`ll go to you next, Donna, because both you and Claire have run for office, Reverend Sharpton has run for office, run for president, run for office as well, there isn`t -- it is a weird thing. The candidate creates the vibe that they want. They create what they want reflected back to them in the audience. Donald Trump seems to sort of luxuriate in creating atmospheres of violence. That`s what he enjoys at his rallies.

As somebody who has been an elected official in the south, people leave Maryland out of the south but it`s the upper south, what kind of a message do you think is being sent to black Americans by Donald Trump holding this rally a day after Juneteenth, so close to the Greenwood section in Tulsa? What do you think he`s intending to say to us?

FMR. REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD): Well, you know, I think it`s not a secret what Donald Trump is both intending to say to black people but also what he`s really saying to his hard core white supremacist base, and that is that he is willing to sow chaos and destruction even as he`s running for president and in terms of race to win this election. And so I don`t think that that is a secret. It hasn`t been a secret since he descended the elevator, the escalator at Trump Towers.

And it strikes me that on this Juneteenth, of course, it`s not an accident that, one, he wanted to hold it on the 19th, but that he is so near the Greenwood massacre. He pretends not to know anything about this history, but he does. And what I would say is that I think that he is trying to sow chaos on the streets, and he wants the threat of that so that he can allow his Trumpian base to come out in the worst way.

And so I get worried for us that we have a president of the United States who has no regard for human life, who has no regard for our history and was willing to go to the absolute lowest common denominator, not even a common one, in order to sow his political seeds and for his own political gain.

REID: You know, Philip Rucker, he has a quite clear knowledge of our history and wants to pull at the worst threads of it because in his mind his base lives in that space. I mean -- but there`s a lot of contradictory stuff. And I want to get your take, you`re reporter`s take here.

You had Trump tweet out this video that they stole from a user who tried to put up something positive, this probably years ago this video went out, that got pulled down. Not only can they not -- whoever made it not spell toddler, but it was this weird thing where they`re trying to almost portray Trumpism as sort of a love cult, you know, so you have that.

But then you have Donald Trump threatening violence at his rally, essentially preceding violence. Do they honestly believe inside the White House or inside the campaign that they are increasing his base in a way that can make it more likely that he will beat Joe Biden? Because it doesn`t seem likely that any sane person with any campaign experience could think that this is helping him. So why is he doing these things?

PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, Joy, a couple of things to answer that. First of all, that video literally by definition is fake news created by somebody, perhaps the Trump campaign, but nonetheless distributed by the president`s millions of followers on Twitter.

You know to speak to what the president is trying to do with this rally, the sources I talked to in the White House say he`s been cooped up and frustrated and angry that he`s not had the outlet, this ability to get on stage in front of adoring fans and speak to all of his grievances, which he likes to do. I mean, this has been a season of turmoil, of chaos, of crisis, a really disastrous stretch for him politically. And so he`s been so itching to get out there that they`re willing to do this rally and take all of these risks just to give him this outlet to do what he wants to do, which is found the show for him base.

REID: Wait, Phil, are you saying to me that he is simply bored, that the reason that he`s doing this and risking the health and really, frankly, the lives of his own supporters and risking violence in the streets of Tulsa, because he`s bored?

RUCKER: Well, I don`t know that I would say bored, but he -- these rallies have been his life blood throughout the five years he`s been a presidential candidate and president, and he`s now gone three months without them. And he clearly we`ve seen, based on his social media presence has difficulty maintaining attention and focusing on these substantive issues.

And it`s one of the reasons why he goes down all of these rabbit holes on Twitter, which he did with that video last night and went with protesters this morning. It is self-destructive behavior, according to some of his advisers, but there`s not really anything three and a half years into this presidency that they can do about it to change it. So they have to accept it and try to figure out a way to win this campaign with Donald Trump being Donald Trump.

REID: It`s hard to understand how anybody sticks around for this.

Rev, you`ve known Donald Trump for quite a long time. You know what he`s about. Do you get the sense that this is a man who thinks that he can win this way or who is just lashing out not even with a plan? Like do you think that he honestly believes that this will work, that saying mail-in voting is the biggest threat to his re-election and this sort of weird, violent behavior, does he think this will work?

SHARPTON: I think several things that he thinks. I think that he thinks that he`s playing to a base that`s bigger than it is. America has moved beyond the rhetoric of a George Wallace. You see whites and blacks and Asians and Native Americans and Latinos marching together all over this country. This is a new kind of manifestation of people wanting to see families.

I also think that Donald Trump is trying to get the John Bolton book off the front page, and if he can get a little distraction by people fighting and people taking all kinds of rhetorical shots at each other, it gets him past the day. He deals with the day. He doesn`t think long-term. He doesn`t think history and he certainly doesn`t think as head of state.

But if he can get a book that accuses him of trying to cut a deal with the president of China off of the front page, we`re not talking about John Bolton`s book and the seriousness of that charge of what he was going to try to do with the president of China, we`re not talking about how a Supreme Court led by a conservative John Roberts defeated his move on DACA.

He wants us to talk about people fighting over him and fighting in the streets. And people on Juneteenth in Tulsa is not biting the bait. A fish would not get caught if they didn`t bite the bait. That would be my message tonight. Don`t bite the bait. This is not about Trump. This is about moving America forward.

REID: Yes. And, Claire, you have been in governance in a quite conservative state, Missouri. How much does this work? Do these shows of violence, these shows of force against, as Rev says, the majority of the country, this is a minority view now, do these shows of force work on a substantial enough number of voters that this could help him in some way?

MCCASKILL: No. The sure answer is no, especially women voters. He is really behind with women voters right now. Suburban voters are tired of this nonsense. And if you look at the polling, Joy, getting technical just for a minute, if you look at people who feel very strongly about Donald Trump one way or the other, when you look at polls, those are important numbers to look at.

Right now, his very strong approval is about 21. And his very strong disapproval is like 49. That is catastrophic for a campaign, because it leaves few voters in the middle that don`t already feel strongly and more importantly that drives turnout, how strongly you feel. The fact that he is so down in terms of strong disapproval right now in the country, this is not working for him.

In some ways, I`m kind of glad he hasn`t figured that out because he continues, just he`s in the hole and he just keeps digging making it worse. And I don`t think there`s any way that the campaign can save him from himself.

REID: Yes, digging with a pitchfork. Reverend Al Sharpton, thank you very much. I really appreciate you coming tonight. And we will see more of your rally, the work that you`re doing tonight. Former Senator Claire McCaskill, former Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Philip Rucker, thank you guys very much we appreciate all of you.

And as thousands of Trump supporters gather in Tulsa, a new warning from health officials. The global pandemic is getting worse.

Plus, the legacy of Juneteenth and Tulsa`s horrifying place in the history of systemic racism in this country.

Please stay with us.


REID: Welcome back.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court today struck down a lawsuit to force Donald Trump`s own CDC-approved safety measures to be used at his campaign rally tomorrow night in Tulsa, in what is expected to be the largest mass indoor gathering since the pandemic began.

The White House says that it is up to each rally attendant to decide whether or not they wear a mask to protect themselves.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are administering hand sanitizer, masks to those who are in attendance, should they decide to wear them, and we are taking temperature checks.


REID: Well, this comes as the World Health Organization announced today that we have entered a new and dangerous phase of the pandemic.



More than 150,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported to WHO yesterday, the most in a single day so far. Almost half of those cases were reported from the Americas. Countries are understandably eager to open up their societies and economies, but the virus is still spreading fast.


REID: Well, that warning comes as a number of U.S. states are seeing record numbers of new coronavirus cases, including Oklahoma, where 100,000 people are expected to be descending on Tulsa for Trump`s rally, far larger even than the capacity of the arena.

But none of that seems to worry Trump supporters, who have been lining up outside the venue since Monday.


QUESTION: How concerned are you about the virus?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am concerned. I really am. But I really wanted to see this man speak. I think an awful lot of him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not scared of the coronavirus.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not saying that it isn`t real. OK? The numbers do not add up. It is not as bad as people say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if in World War II they stayed home for threat of a virus? Where would we be, man? We can`t live that way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you kidding? The coronavirus dies around me.


REID: Well, all righty then.

For more, I`m joined by Dr. Joseph Fair, epidemiologist and NBC News science contributor, and Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, associate professor of infectious diseases at Boston University Medical School and MSNBC medical contributor.

So when you hear Donald Trump supporters talk, they`re getting a lot of that from watching right-wing news, which reflects what he thinks, and from what Donald Trump himself has said, because they see him as a more reliable source of news than the news.

In Politico, Trump said: "It`s heading south, meaning it`s leaving."

In a Gray D.C. interview, "It`s dying out."

Hannity interview: "It`s fading away. It`s going to fade away."

That seems to be more influential over his supporters than reality.

And now let me just play you reality. Here`s Dr. Fauci sharing his concerns about the rally.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: The best way to protect yourself and to prevent acquisition and spread of an infection is to avoid crowds, avoid crowds.

If, in fact, for one reason or other, you feel compelled to do that, which we don`t recommend, then wear a mask at all times. So, when you see situations where people are not doing that, they are in crowds and/or they`re not wearing masks when they are outside, of course, that gives us concern about the increased risk of spreading infection.

QUESTION: What are the chances that the virus could widely spread in that enclosed space?

FAUCI: You know, you can`t put an American risk factor on it. But it`s very clear that the risk exists.


REID: Dr. Bhadelia, I`ll start with you on this, because a lot of Trump supporters say, well, you all aren`t saying that about people who are marching about police reform.

Is there a difference between being in marches outside with masks and being inside an arena with 20,000 people? Is the risk different between those two?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Joy, any gathering of people carries a risk, right?

But an indoor rally, particularly one wear masks are not required, it is the epitome of the highest-risk activity. This is a lot of people, an ability to not keep that physical distancing, people not wearing a mask, and people potentially yelling and speaking loudly, all of which puts that virus in the surrounding.

And what we know is that the virus actually stays in the air for a couple of hours after people have spoken and after you have aerosolized the virus in the air. That means you have this whole group of people that is just gathering up a concentration of this virus in one space.

And they`re going to all then split apart and go all over the country. And who knows how many cases that will cause. We can`t put a number on it. We all hope it won`t be high, but chances are, there`s going to be a lot more cases than if the rally hadn`t been there.

And the question that we`re going to ask after this is, was it worth it? Was all of that worth it?

REID: And, Dr. Fair, you have the WHO warning that the Americas are where we`re seeing the spikes. That, of course, includes the United States.

I can`t imagine during Ebola or H1N1 the president of the United States, then Barack Obama, encouraging people to do the very things that would get them sick. It seems so counterintuitive. How do we get out of this pandemic?

If you -- depending on what state you live in, what kind of governor you have, and what kind of politics are ruling your state, you either are getting safe practices, or you`re not. Like, how do we get out of this?

DR. JOSEPH FAIR, MSNBC SCIENCE CONTRIBUTOR: I honestly think it`s come down to a point where it`s just going to be our personal responsibility to take care of ourselves, because you even see this, the governors kind of retreating on the safety measures, under pressure from the people that want to open back up completely and not wear masks and things like that in certain cases.

So I think it`s going to come down to the individual. I think Dr. Bhadelia tweeted something about this the other day about, consciously or subconsciously, most leaders are tending towards the path of herd immunity for us, just letting us either experience the virus and get over it or take our own safety measures and not get it.

So, for me personally, I think it`s going to come down to those individual safety measures.

REID: Yes.

FAIR: If you see a business that is doing business unsafely, and you choose not to do business with that business anymore.

Same with airlines, same with everything else in your life. And that`s going to have to be life until we get a vaccine, or until we have some kind of abatement of the pandemic, but for the foreseeable future.

REID: And would you advise, are you -- or do you support what New York state is doing, saying, hey, if you`re coming from Florida, which is seeing spikes and has a governor who is Trumpy and pretty much is like, ah, I`m not -- I don`t want to really do too much to stop it, that they`re saying you have to be quarantined for 14 days if you come to New York?

Is that the right thing to do?

FAIR: I think it`s probably an appropriate measure.

I think New York got a little upset when Florida did that to them early on in the pandemic. But that being said, it`s not going to be a perfect system. It is good. It helps you watch over people, at least, make them aware that there is a system in place and that you`re trying to keep track of them.

REID: Yes.

FAIR: It still comes down to personal responsibility. Not everybody`s going to do it. So there`s going to be people that don`t do it that end up spreading the virus (INAUDIBLE)

REID: This sounds like years and years and years of us having this pandemic stuck in the United States based on this. This is terrifying and insane.

Joseph Fair, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, thank you both very much. Really appreciate you both.

And up next, a live report from Tulsa ahead of Trump`s rally tomorrow night.

Stay with us.


REID: In just 24 hours, Donald Trump will land in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of his first rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC`s Cal Perry is in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, the site of the brutal massacre of some 300 African-Americans at the hands of white vigilantes in 1921. He`s got a report for us.

Cal, take it away.

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You know, 100 years after the massacre, this was an economic center of power for black America, even though segregation was taking place.

And, as you said, you had a jealous white community come in here and massacre the community. Now, on the backdrop of that, plus the Black Lives Matter movement, plus Juneteenth, the president`s holding a rally tomorrow.

And so I`m joined by Jerome (ph).

What do you think about the president choosing to hold a rally tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when you sit back and think about it, they have that right to do that.

Everybody that supports him, in my personal opinion, I think he`s just doing it for the votes. When they initially said that they said it was about the COVID thing, but I think that was a bunch of B.S., as we all know.

But here we are here, in the historic Greenwood area celebrating. As you can see everybody out there, look at the turnout that we`re having. It`s nothing but positive, so...

PERRY: Do you think he purposely picked Tulsa?


But, with him, you never know, because he`s so unpredictable. One minute, he`s this way. Next minute, he`s another way. So, with him, you never know.

But at, the end of the day, he is who he is. We are who we are. We`re excited about being out here in the historic Greenwood area. You see all these African-American people and the Caucasian people too.

We`re out here having a good time. So, that`s what it`s about. We`re excited to be here.

PERRY: Mr. (INAUDIBLE) thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.

PERRY: I appreciate it. You be well.

Joy, it`s an absolute celebratory atmosphere here today, lots of families, lots of kids. Tomorrow, that concern is that we will see counter-demos to that Trump rally. It`s only about eight-tenths of a mile from where I am right now.

And add to that the National Guard will be on the streets. So, tomorrow, I think people are going to wait to see sort of how that shakes out, Joy.

REID: All right, thank you very much, Cal Perry.

And I predict the elbow bump survives the pandemic era. I think that`s going to be a lasting thing.

All right, up next: a deep dive into the history of the Tulsa riots and the legacy of Juneteenth. You are going to want to stick around for this.

We will be right back.


REID: Welcome back.

Amid the national outcry over racial injustice, we have been reminded of two important lessons from America`s past that you may not have learned in history class.

The first is the lesson of today, Juneteenth, a holiday celebrated by millions across this country each year. It commemorates the day that all African-Americans in every corner of this nation were officially free from slavery.

The date itself marks the occasion in 1865 when the last remaining enslaved African-Americans in the country, then living in the most remote slave state, Texas, were finally granted their freedom by the Union Army.

It came more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Now, that`s the historic significance of this day. And it`s why Senator Kamala Harris and others are introducing a bill to designate Juneteenth as an official federal holiday.

But it`s also why so many were shocked to learn last week that Donald Trump had initially planned to relaunch his campaign on this day in a city known for one of the worst racist massacres in American history.

And that`s the second lesson, and it`s coming up next.


REID: Welcome back.

Donald Trump`s decision to relaunch his campaign on Juneteenth was met with such anger and revulsion that he rescheduled it for tomorrow. But the date of the rally isn`t the only thing sparking outrage during this time of racial tension.

It`s also Trump`s choice of location, Tulsa, Oklahoma, a city that still grapples with a very dark past. It was there almost a century ago that a hostile white mob unleashed a wave of violence on the district of Greenwood, a prosperous African-American enclave also known as Black Wall Street.

The massacre that ensued ranks among the worst in U.S. history, with white rioters looting and burning the black neighborhood to the ground. Martial law was declared. But, according to the Tulsa Historical Society, law enforcement only contributed to the violence that unfolded.

Churches, schools and more than 1,000 homes were torched. Thirty-five city blocks were completely leveled, leaving the surviving residents to pick through the rubble of hollowed-out homes.

That day of violence left only the charred remains of a once vibrant neighborhood. And while historians today are still picking up the pieces, they believe that as many as 300 people were slaughtered.

In fact, the search for victims continues to this day with the excavation of a cemetery there.

And I`m joined now by Jelani Cobb, Columbia University journalism professor and staff writer at "The New Yorker," and Scott Ellsworth, University of Michigan historian and author of "The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice," about reckoning with the Tulsa massacre.

And, Professor Ellsworth, I`m going to go to you first. Scott Ellsworth, I want to go to you first.

The thing that is so striking that I have heard today, just listening to all the news coverage, is the extent to which this Tulsa massacre was sort of erased even from the history books in Tulsa, that people don`t seem to be conversant with it.

I am curious to know, are there oral histories of what white residents said about this -- about this era? Because that kind of violence lives and exists in the hearts and minds of people on both sides of it.


And I think it`s important to note that the massacre was absolutely suppressed, actively suppressed for decades. Neither of Tulsa`s white daily newspaper -- newspapers would publish an article about the massacre. Official records disappeared.

And individuals who tried to bring it up or research it, they were threatened with their livelihoods and, at least in one case, with their lives.

But, historically, white Tulsans had been very, very reluctant to talk about it. I started doing interviews on this in the 1970s. It was rare to find any whites that would talk about it.

I think, only recently, within the last 30 years, there will be a few whites that will talk about it, but it`s often handed-down stories. But, certainly, we have never had a single -- single one of the looters or murderers speak with anyone on record.

REID: And to stay with you for just a moment, I mean, the fact that you had the Air Force bomb this area, that they came in not to help to save these people`s lives, but to bomb the city, that you had churches burned, the supposed Christians burning down churches, and the fact that insurance companies wouldn`t even look at those claims, and wouldn`t pay it back, has there ever been any restitution to the families of those black victims in Tulsa or by the state of Oklahoma?

ELLSWORTH: No, no serious restitution.

Twenty years ago, during the era of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, there was an effort to try and win reparations. We had more than 100 massacre survivors alive at that point. Politically, we failed.

And there was a lawsuit that was launched as well by Professor Charles Ogletree. It made it through the United States district courts, split decision in a court of appeals, but the Supreme Court would not accept the case.

So, no, there`s been no serious restitution at all for either the survivors or their descendants.

REID: Jelani, let me bring you into the conversation.

This -- the Tulsa riot has always been something that`s fixated sort of in my mind. I mean, my mother was literally born eight years after it. So, it`s not ancient history, you know?

And I wonder how you reckon with this idea that people who are probably the children or at least the grandchildren of enslaved people build this place that is affluent, you know, has a department store, has all of this, doing what the Reconstruction Republicans said, this is what you should do, build your own thing.

And the fact that it`s just burned to the ground and gone, and it`s just gone, and gone from the memory, what is -- what is wrong with the way that we look at our history that we can`t face that?

JELANI COBB, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, I think, Joy, there`s - - there are a few things happening here, one of which is that, in the United States, people have typically confused and conflated history with a resume.

You think the resume talks about all of your virtues and all of your achievements, and history is supposed to be a much more candid assessment of what`s actually happened. And there`s a great deal of reluctance to do that.

Also, when the country declares itself to be exceptional, the exemplary nation, it can`t talk honestly about what exactly it has done in its past.

Now, one thing that I do want to make sure that we understand is that Tulsa was typical. So, it happened in the context of many purges like this, many racial pogroms that happened in the United States.

The same thing happened in Chicago. The same thing happened in Elaine, Arkansas. Same thing happened in Rosewood in Florida. Same thing happened in Washington, D.C., in the same time period, in East Saint Louis. And you can go on and on.

In Atlanta, there were -- about 15 years earlier, there was a similar attack that was targeting the prosperous black business community there. If you went back to the 19th century, Ida B. Wells, the famous crusading journalist, gets her start because some African-American friends of hers were lynched for the crime of operating a successful grocery business.

And so there is an actual pattern here. This is not something that we look at as a one-time event and say, oh, this -- we don`t understand how something, this anomaly took place. No, this is actually the norm, not the exception.

REID: Well, and it`s also the heart of the lynching era, right?

I mean, you had this reclamation period after the Civil War, where there was this vengeance, bloody vengeance taken out, even on World War I returning soldiers for daring to wear their uniforms.

And I think you make a really good point.

To stay with you for just a minute, Jelani, there`s also this sort of way that memory is used for politics on the other side of it, that white memory is used to flip even horrible events, to say no, no, this is how we`re looking out for you.

I`m going to give you an example. Ronald Reagan, who people forget was -- he was elected 12 years after King was assassinated, not like 100 years after, like 12 years after.

And not long after the Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney murders in Mississippi, he goes to Mississippi. He goes to Philadelphia, Mississippi, the same place where those three civil rights workers were murdered. He goes there in 1980 to kick off his campaign.

I think we have some B roll of that. And he talks about believing in states` rights, that I believe in states` rights. He rallies to this all- white crowd.

And then here`s just a little bit of his speech.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m going to devote myself to trying to reorder those priorities and to restore the states and local communities those functions which properly belong there.


REID: It is very hard for me to believe, Jelani, that it is accidental that Donald Trump, surrounded by the -- quote -- "alt-right" people that are around him, accidentally tried to plan a rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth, because that is the history that Republican -- the Republican Party, they have used it before.

The Dixiecrats used to use it. It`s been used before.

COBB: Sure.

It`s a kind of knockoff of the Reagan movement. That was immediately what I read it -- I read it as when I saw it. And this is not surprising. It`s not shocking.

It`s the same thing where you saw people take the Martin Luther King holiday and turn it into Confederate appreciation day. So, it`s trolling. It`s something that we should be accustomed to and aware of at this point.

And one last thing I will say about this that, just on the point of Tulsa, is that, if you remember back, when the Alfred Murrah Building was bombed in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh, and there were 168 casualties in that terrible incident, and there was this reaction.

This is how history works. There`s a reaction, and they talk about this immediately as the worst event of terrorism that has ever happened on American soil. This is prior to 9/11, of course.

They didn`t realize that that wasn`t even the worst in terms of casualties, the worst act of terrorism that had happened in the state of Oklahoma. Tulsa exceeded that. As many as 300 people could have died in that massacre that happened there.

REID: Yes. Yes.

COBB: And so this -- it`s meant to give a kind of one-sided exculpatory view of the past that implicitly and inherently shapes the way that we see the present.

REID: Well, and, Scott Ellsworth, it`s also, as Leader Jim Clyburn said the other day in an interview on MSNBC, I believe with Nicolle Wallace, this was also the first time -- it wasn`t 9/11 that was the first time that planes were used in committing terrorism against Americans.

Tulsa was the first time that happened. And it`s almost been written out of the American memory.

ELLSWORTH: Absolutely.

And the issue of airplanes is something that gets a lot of attention, because it`s so outlandish. But let`s also remember that we had more than 1,000 African-American homes and businesses that were destroyed, that no white person ever went to jail for any of the lootings or murders that happened.

The white city fathers in Tulsa told the world afterwards, Tulsa is ashamed of this event, we`re going to rebuild. Instead, they tried to steal the land. And it was black Tulsans who defied them and rebuilt anyway.

So there`s a much larger history with plenty of atrocities that happened during the riot that has not been told, or it`s not been -- let`s see, it`s not well-known, as it should be, not only in Tulsa and Oklahoma, but this is a national event, and it`s something that should be taught across the nation.

REID: Yes, absolutely, something like 60 years after the end of slavery, so not even that long after the end of slavery.

"Watchmen," people thought that that opening of "Watchmen" was made up. No, it is real.

Thank you, Jelani Cobb, Scott Ellsworth. And it`s a shame that`s the only way some people know about the Tulsa massacre. Appreciate both of you.

And up next -- and happy Juneteenth to both of you.

And the legislative push next to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Stay with us.



SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Together with my colleagues Cory Booker and Tina Smith and Ed Markey, we are proposing that Juneteenth be a national holiday. And we are dropping that bill to say that Juneteenth should actually be a national holiday.


REID: Welcome back.

Well, that was Senator Kamala Harris breaking the news to me last night that she was planning to introduce a bill officially declaring Juneteenth a national holiday.

Well, today, as Americans across the country celebrated Emancipation Day, that bill was officially announced. In a press release, Harris said that: "On Juneteenth, we remember the millions who suffered, died and survived the crushing reality of slavery in America and recommit ourselves to continuing in the fight for equal justice for all. Without question, it should be recognized with the respect of a federal holiday."

The day, which began as a Texas holiday in 1980, is now recognized by 47 states and the District of Columbia. If the bill passes and becomes law, it would be a remarkably short turnaround.

It took 15 years of effort for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.`s birthday to become a federal holiday back in 1983.

Well, that`s our show for tonight. But I will be right back here tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern for "A.M. JOY," as well as 6:00 p.m. Eastern for a special broadcast.

Thanks so much for being with us.