Saturday, June 19th marks Juneteenth, a day dedicated to celebrating African American Emancipation Day. Sometimes celebrated as a day, a week, or even the whole month of June, Juneteenth symbolizes the incredible influence that African American history has had on society. Celebrations often include music, food, and dance in recognition of the contributions and sacrifices African Americans have made throughout history and their lasting impacts.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Abraham Lincoln on January 1st, 1863 which is historically known to have ended slavery. However, not all slaves were liberated because the proclamation only applied to states in the Confederacy and not to the nation as a whole. And, even in the coming years, racism and injustice continued to consume the nation. Juneteenth is a recognition of the liberation of African Americans who were enslaved as well as a celebration of African American culture and its impact on society. Specifically, June 19th was named “Juneteenth” because of General Gordon Granger’s reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865 after arriving in Galveston, Texas with other Union soldiers and announcing the end of the war and the emancipation of the enslaved. The event was significant because there had been minimal Union troops present in Texas to enforce the proclamation until Robert E. Lee’s surrender in 1865 and General Granger’s arrival.
The Juneteenth flag (see below) was designed by Ben Haith, an activist and founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF).
The flag is meant to portray a new star on the horizon. The star itself represents freedom and the red, white, and blue colors are meant to showcase how African American slaves and all of their descendants are American.
Another common flag that may be seen at Juneteenth celebrations is the Pan-African flag. The Pan-African flag was created by Marcus Garvey and adopted by the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in 1920. Each color on the flag symbolizes different components: Red for the blood of African Americans that have lost their lives, Black for melanin and the Black race, and Green for the fertile land and prosperity in Africa.
Celebrating in Burlington
Burlington, Vermont is hosting its first ever Juneteenth celebration the weekend of June 19th produced by the city’s Office of Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging! There will be musical performances, art, food vendors, and educational opportunities downtown in commemoration of the day, including both in person and virtual experiences that you can take part in. For more information on the Burlington celebration, you can visit Burlington City Art’s website.
And, for more information or education on Juneteenth and African American history, the library has several books about the history of Juneteenth as well as Antiracism Resources, information on The Black Press, and history on the Race & Ethnicity of Vermont.
Whether you choose to get involved in person or virtually on June 19th or celebrate the day in your own way, Juneteenth offers an inspiring opportunity for education, remembrance, and recognition of the African American community of the past, present, and future – as well as an opportunity to have some fun in the Burlington community!
Not in Burlington? There’s a good chance there’s a local Juneteenth celebration, maybe the first ever, happening near you! Or, check out this virtual Juneteenth Celebration sponsored by a coalition of ten Black history & culture museums.
Abbey Berger-Knorr ’24 is a Communication major and the Marketing & Media Production Assistant at Champlain College Library.