The True Meaning of the Juneteenth Flag, Explained

The True Meaning of the Juneteenth Flag, Explained
·3 min read

In the past year, the police killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, have sparked the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, causing many Americans to take another look at the complicated history our country has with race and racism.

The national reckoning over racial injustice has been accompanied by lessons on how to to be an anti-racist, a push to consciously buy Black, and a renewed interest in learning about Black American traditions like Juneteenth. The holiday, which occurs on June 19, honors the historic day in 1865, when the last of the enslaved people in the U.S. were granted freedom after Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced that the the Civil War was officially over. In the decades since, Juneteenth has become a celebration that's recognized in 49 states.

The biggest symbol of Juneteenth is its flag—a red, white, and blue fabric, with a bursting star placed against an arc. Ahead, we explain the flag's history, meaning, and what exactly it symbolizes for the Black community.

The Juneteenth flag was created in 1997.

Photo credit: Douglas Sacha - Getty Images
Photo credit: Douglas Sacha - Getty Images

The first flag that represented the holiday was created in 1997 by Ben Haith, the founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF). Three years later, artist Lisa Jeanne Graf explained on her website that she "fine tuned" the original version, resulting in the flag we see today. This was the same year that Haith led the holiday's initial flag raising ceremony in Boston's Roxbury Heritage Park, according to the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF).

What do the flag's colors and symbols mean?

You'll see that the Juneteenth flag uses the exact same colors as the United States's flag: red, white, and blue. This was intentional and meant to show that the formerly enslaved and their descendants are free Americans, too.

Photo credit: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox - Getty Images
Photo credit: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox - Getty Images

According to NJOF, here's what the individual symbols depicted in the flag represent:

  • The Arc: A new horizon, meaning fresh opportunities and promising futures for Black Americans

  • The Star: Not only is it a nod to the Lone Star State (where Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1865), but it also stands for the freedom of every Black American in all 50 states

  • The Burst: The outline surrounding the star is meant to reflect a nova— or new star—which represents a new beginning for all

And in 2007, the date of the first Juneteenth (June 19, 1865) was added to the flag.

But you may see another flag used during celebrations.

Even though the red, white, and blue flag is closely associated with Juneteenth, you'll still see some celebrating with the red, green, and black Pan-African flag, which was created in 1920, after Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey called for a Black liberation flag.

Photo credit: ROBERTO SCHMIDT - Getty Images
Photo credit: ROBERTO SCHMIDT - Getty Images

Though both act as symbols of pride and freedom for Black people, the Juneteenth flag was intentionally created to honor a single holiday, whereas the Pan-African flag represents all of the African Diaspora.

Where can I buy the Juneteenth flag?

If you'd like to support the foundation, the NJOF sells their own flags on their website. However, they're also available on Amazon.

Shop Juneteenth Flag at NJOF Shop Juneteenth Flag at Amazon

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