EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Sunday, June 19, marked the 157th anniversary of Juneteenth.
Here’s what you need to know about the country’s most recent federal holiday:
1. What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth commemorates the end of the Civil War and slavery. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger delivered the news to the people of Galveston, Texas.
The first Juneteenth was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which legally set slaves free. Slaveowners in some parts of the country kept their slaves despite the Emancipation Proclamation.
2. Where is Juneteenth observed?
Juneteenth became the twelfth federal holiday in 2021, when President Joe Biden signed a bill into law that passed the Senate by “unanimous consent,” according to the Congressional Research Service.
Whether Juneteenth is observed or not comes down to each state. Eighteen states have laws declaring Juneteenth as a paid state holiday. In Massachusetts, state and municipal offices are closed. In Rhode Island, state employees have to work but some municipalities observe the holiday.
3. What does the Juneteenth flag represent?
The red, white and blue colors of the flag represent the United States and how African Americans became Americans after slavery was abolished.
The star represents Texas, the state where the last slaves were kept. It also signifies freedom for Black Americans in every other state.
The nova surrounding the star represents the start of a new life for African Americans post-slavery, while the arc symbolizes a “new horizon” for the race, according to CNN.
The date for Juneteenth was later added to the side of the flag.
4. Who created the Juneteenth flag?
Ben Haith, also known as “Boston Ben,” was born in Stamford, Connecticut, but moved to Boston later in life and became a well-known activist in Roxbury.
Haith enlisted local artist Lisa Jeanne Graf to create the graphic that eventually became the flag, according to The Boston Globe.
5. How does the Pan-African flag differ from the Juneteenth flag?
The Juneteenth flag has sparked debate. Some believe the Pan-African flag, and its use of green, black and red colors, is the most appropriate for the holiday because some Black Americans don’t feel represented by red, white and blue. While the Juneteenth flag conveys the message that African Americans are Americans, the Pan-African flag honors the African diaspora.