June 19 is Juneteenth—a national holiday that celebrates the end of chattel slavery in the United States and freedom of African Americans. Often called the U.S.’ second Independence Day, Juneteenth is a time for us to reflect on the struggle for racial equality and equity and to celebrate those who work to make the American ideal of liberty and justice for all our reality.
During Juneteenth celebrations, you will likely see at least two flags waving and flying in various communities—the Pan-African flag, also known as the Black Liberation flag, and the Juneteenth flag. Read about the flags’ symbolism in the sections below.
Created by activist Marcus Garvey and adopted by the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1920, the Pan-African flag represents the African diaspora and the freedom of black people. The flag’s colors — red, black, and green — evoke a sense of shared struggle and roots. Red symbolizes shared African ancestry and the blood of Africans who died fighting for freedom, while black represents a shared race. Africa is known for its abundant natural resources and beauty, and the color green represents this abundance.
In 1997, activist Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation, created the Juneteenth flag. Representing the end of slavery in the U.S., the Juneteenth flag contains many symbols that evoke belonging and hope. The red, white, and blue colors serve as a reminder that enslaved people and their descendants are Americans. The curve within the flag symbolizes a horizon, which stands for the opportunities waiting for African Americans. In the center of the flag, a white star represents Texas — the state where the last enslaved people learned they were free — and the freedom of all African Americans. The burst surrounding the star represents a nova, which symbolizes a new start.
Donnella, L. (2017, June 14). On Flag Day, Remembering The Red, Black And Green. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/06/14/532667081/on-flag-day-remembering-the-red-black-and-green.
Kaur, H. (2022, June 17). The Juneteenth flag is full of symbols. Here’s what they mean. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/17/us/juneteenth-flag-meaning-explainer-cec/index.html.