Jimmy Fallon is attempting to educate Americans on the history of Juneteenth in the most Jimmy Fallon way possible: by crashing Astronomy Club‘s virtual Juneteenth BBQ and then revealing he knows very little about Juneteenth.
The Tonight Show clip is both funny and educational, but it’s also a depressing example of how much energy Black people are being asked to expend educating white people on Black history. The four-minute video opens with the members of Astronomy Club, the Upright Citizens Brigade’s first all-Black comedy troupe, sharing what they’ve brought for their Juneteenth Zoom BBQ, and then Fallon arrives. The Tonight Show host claims he doesn’t need the Astronomy Club’s members to teach him anything, which they say is good because they’re “getting tired of teaching white folks stuff.” (As Keisha Zollar puts it, “It’s like every white person’s Google broke at the same time.”) However, it soon becomes obvious that while Fallon thought he understood the basic history of the holiday, he still ultimately knows very little about the Black experience.
Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States and dates back to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, and announced that enslaved people were now free. The date came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on Jan. 1, 1863, but Union troops hadn’t previously had a strong enough presence in Texas to enforce the executive order.
In the clip, the members of Astronomy Club also touch on other ways racism has affected Black Americans throughout the country’s history and into its present, including the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, redlining, gerrymandering, and voter suppression. They also suggest that Juneteenth should be declared a national holiday, an idea that is gaining traction across the country.
It shouldn’t take Jimmy Fallon using his platform of The Tonight Show to teach Americans about Juneteenth, but it’s a start, and at least he’s using his reach for good.
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon airs weeknights at 11:35/10:35c on NBC.
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