Commemorating 156 Years of Celebrating the Emancipation of African American Slaves

The first flag that represented Juneteenth was created in 1997 by Ben Haith. Lisa Jeanne Graf “fine tuned” the original version three years later, resulting in the flag we see today. On June 19th, 2000, Haith led the holiday’s initial flag raising ceremony in Boston’s Roxbury Heritage Park.

The red, white & blue flag you see pictured commemorates the day that Union Major General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived on the island of Galveston, Texas and told the last enslaved African Americans “…that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Though the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1st, 1863, it took 2½ years for this declaration of independence to happen because the Civil War had been ongoing and had not ended until May 9th, 1865. Southern slaves under confederate rule were not freed until federal troops marched though towns to enforce the emancipation of slaves in 1865. That lead them to Galveston on June 19th, or Juneteenth, to free the last slaves in America. African Americans have celebrated Juneteenth as an unofficial national independence day ever since that day in 1965.

Texas became the first state in the nation to make Juneteenth an official state holiday. The oldest known celebration of the end of slavery receives its first official recognition on June 7, 1979, as the Texas Legislature passes a bill declaring Juneteenth a state holiday.

The flag, created in 1997 by Ben Haith, the founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF), has the same American flag COLORS meant to show that the formerly enslaved people and their descendants are free Americans too. The ARC bordering the red and blue represents a new horizon – fresh opportunities and promising futures for African Americans. The STAR is not only a nod to the Lone Star State where Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1865, but it also stands for the freedom of every African American in all 50 states. The BURST surrounding the star is meant to reflect a nova— or new star—which represents a new beginning for all Americans. What is most unfortunate is that Juneteenth, a day of jubilee celebrated all over the country for more than 150 years, was not widely know in the United States prior to the movements of 2020. Juneteenth represents the end of horrible exploitative crimes against humanity for people of color, and it is important for us to acknowledge and grow from our sins of the past. It’s also a hard pill to swallow that the U.S. was one of the last countries to abolish slavery after the Civil War, a war 25 times more deadly than the American Revolutionary which bore Independence Day.

June 19th, 2021 – President Joe Biden signs a law making Juneteenth a federal holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States. Present at the signing and standing left of Vice President Kamala Harris was Opal Lee, a 94-year-old activist from Fort Worth, Texas. This was momentous for Opal, a.k.a. the “Grandmother of Juneteenth”, as she spent decades tirelessly working to make Juneteenth a nationally recognized, federal holiday.

We at the NCFO agree that the Juneteenth National Independence Day bill signed into law yesterday was long overdue. We lock arms with our brothers & sisters of all races and stand up for civil rights of all Americans, and Juneteenth marks the true beginning in the fight for civil rights for African Americans.

Happy Juneteenth from President Dean Devita, Secretary Treasurer Bob Smith, and everyone here at the NCFO!