Mr. Trump’s address was carefully molded along the lines of those given by other presidents at such occasions. Even as he paid tribute to that original House of Burgesses, he noted that this was also the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves brought to America in chains.
“Today, in honor, we remember every sacred soul who suffered the horrors of slavery and the anguish of bondage,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “In the face of grave oppression and grave injustice, African-Americans have built, strengthened, inspired, uplifted, protected, defended and sustained our nation from its very earliest days.”
His critics, however, were not buying it. Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who delivered his own speech as part of Tuesday’s commemoration, said afterward that Mr. Trump does not fully understand the history of the country he governs.
“Trump leads by division, not unity,” Mr. Meacham said, “and he fails to see that we honor those who expand the American family, not those who constrict it.”
Mr. Trump has employed racist tropes repeatedly in recent weeks. He told four Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to their home countries, even though three were born in the United States and the fourth was naturalized as a teenager. In the last several days, he assailed Mr. Cummings and his “rat and rodent infested” majority-black district and he targeted other rivals like Mr. Sharpton, who, he said on Twitter, “Hates Whites & Cops.”
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday morning before leaving the White House for Jamestown, Mr. Trump focused on what he called Baltimore’s “tremendous corruption,” pinning it, without substantiation, on Mr. Cummings.