- Created by activist Ben Haith in 1997, the Juneteenth flag has become a symbol to celebrate black emancipation in the US.
- The flag has 3 symbols – a five-pointed star, a bursting star and an arc – which according to Haith have specific meanings.
- Many black Americans celebrate Juneteenth with the red, black and green Pan-African flag.
The Juneteenth flag – a banner with a bursting star – will be flown over the US on June 19, a celebration commemorating the emancipation of blacks and the liberation of 250,000 enslaved people in Texas.
The first flag was created in 1997 by activist Ben Haith, with the help of artist Lisa Jeanne Graf.
The flag, which has since been revised twice, features three symbols in red, white, and blue and the words, “June 19, 1865.” The date points to the origins of Juneteenth, when Union federal troops drove into Galveston, Texas to ensure the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans.
Haith founded the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation, an organization that campaigned for Juneteenth’s recognition as a federal holiday. Although Juneteenth has been celebrated since 1866, it was not recognized as a federal holiday until June 2021.
“I thought it was just important, and before I knew it, it became a project,” Haith told the Boston Globe.
The creator thought it was very important to use red, white and blue
Haith said in an interview with Capital B Atlanta that the tricolor of the Juneteenth flag – red, white and blue – was a conscious choice. Using the same colors as the Star-Spangled Banner is a reminder that enslaved black Americans were Americans in the first place, he said.
“Our ancestors were not considered citizens of this country for so long,” Haith told Capital B Atlanta. “They just weren’t recognized as citizens. So I thought it was important that the colors of red, white, and blue portray what we see in the American flag.”
The 3 design elements that reflect the history of Juneteenth
Here’s what the symbols on the flag mean, according to Haith:
- The five-point star: According to CNN, Haith said the five-pointed star represents the state of Texas, where, in 1865, Union soldiers told the last remaining enslaved African Americans they were free, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It also represents the freedom of African Americans in every U.S. state, Haith said.
- The Bursting Star: Haith told Capital B Atlanta that the star’s outline was inspired by a nova — an explosion in space that produces a new star. It also represents a “new beginning” for the African American people who were liberated in Galveston, according to CNN.
- The bow: The curve dividing the red and blue colors of the flag represents a “new horizon,” Haith said. It also represents the “opportunity and promise” in the future for black Americans, according to CNN.
The other flag you might see today is red, black and green
Historically, the flag most often waved on Juneteenth is the red, black and green Pan-African flag, according to Oprah Daily. The flag was created in 1920 to represent Africans around the world, according to NPR.
Both flags are symbols of “pride and freedom” for black Americans, but serve different purposes. Tim Goler, director of research at the Center for African American Public Policy, told USA TODAY that he appreciates the Juneteenth flag highlighting that people descended from enslaved people are Americans. But he believes that “the Pan-African flag is really the most appropriate flag for Juneteenth” because deep-seated inequality still exists in the US.
Haith said the Juneteenth flag represents all black Americans throughout US history.
“When we celebrate, we celebrate for them, and we celebrate for the future of our people,” Haith told Capital B Atlanta. “The flag represents the people of the past, it represents us and it will represent the people of the future.”