8:39 AM PDT, June 19, 2021
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and freed all the slaves. However, it was first recognized in Galveston, Texas (where it began as a holiday) two and a half years later, on June 19, 1965.
On Thursday, June 17, 2021, Joe Biden signed a bill into law, making Juneteenth a national holiday. During the signing ceremony, he said, “I have to say to you, I’ve only been president for several months, but I think this will go down, for me, as one of the greatest honors I will have as president,” according to CNN.
He added, “By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history — and celebrate progress and grapple with the distance we’ve come (and) the distance we have to travel.”
There are several ways to celebrate the day. People take the time to learn more about Black history, folks gather with family and friends to eat and drink, people set off fireworks, and some people use the day to support Black businesses.
Regardless of how people choose to enjoy the day, when they do, there’s usually a Juneteenth flag flying proudly. And the flag has many symbols with meanings behind them.
CNN explains that the flag was created in 1997 by activist Ben Haith, the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF) founder. He worked with Boston-based illustrator Lisa Jeanne Graf to perfect the final product.
“This country has so many aspects to it that are spiritual, and I believe this flag is of that nature,” Haith said about the flag. “It just came through me.”
And according to the outlet, each element of it serves a purpose.
The star centered in the middle has two meanings: One, it represents Texas. Two, it represents the freedom of African Americans in the 50 states.
The burst around the star is inspired by the word Nova. It is a term astronauts use to reference a new star. On the Juneteenth flag, it represents a new beginning for African Americans.
The curve across the width of the flag represents a new horizon and new opportunities. And, of course, the colors represent the American flag.
“And while African Americans today are still fighting for equality and justice,” Cnn states, “Haith said those colors symbolize the continuous commitment of people in the United States to do better —and to live up to the American ideal of liberty and justice for all.”