CT resident credited with creating Juneteenth Flag

Commemorating its 157th anniversary on June 19, the day known as “Juneteenth” marks one of the earliest moments of liberation of enslaved people in the U.S. While the day has been traditionally marked by prayer services and public memorials, flying the Juneteenth flag is also part of the holiday’s commemoration.

Norwich resident Ben Haith is crediting with designing the Juneteenth flag, according to Connecticut by the Numbers, and worked with illustrator Lisa Jeanne Graf to create the banner while living in Boston in 1997. 

The flag was revised in 2000 to today’s version; seven years later, CNN reports that “June 19, 1865” was added to mark the day in 1865 on which a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned they were freed from the institution of slavery, making them among the last to be freed. The day came two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation declaring enslaved people in states seceded from the Union freed.

Haith, who grew up in Stamford, told the Norwich Bulletin that the flag is about “humanity” and about “people who accomplished a lot, even though they went through a lot.” Channeling this symbolism into the flag’s design was a “deliberate” process, Haith told CNN while breaking down the meaning of the flag’s components. 

Dave Fields and Jere Eaton present the Juneteenth flag during the Juneteenth celebration at Jackie Robinson Park in Stamford on Sunday. The event featured a flag presentation, Stamford ICON award presentation, art contest winner, student open mic, and mural completion ceremony. Additionally, a section of Fairfield Avenue received the honorary name of Dr. Joyce Yerwood Way after the first Black woman medical doctor in Fairfield County.

Dave Fields and Jere Eaton present the Juneteenth flag during the Juneteenth celebration at Jackie Robinson Park in Stamford on Sunday. The event featured a flag presentation, Stamford ICON award presentation, art contest winner, student open mic, and mural completion ceremony. Additionally, a section of Fairfield Avenue received the honorary name of Dr. Joyce Yerwood Way after the first Black woman medical doctor in Fairfield County.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

Seen in flag-raising ceremonies around the state, the flag is red and white and features a white star framed by a starburst at the center along with the June 19, 1865 date along the outer right side. Haith told CNN the star symbolized both Texas as the Lone Star State and honors Galveston’s role the formation of the holiday; it also represents the freedom of African Americans in all 50 states.

The burst surrounded the star is “inspired by a nova, a term that astronomers use to mean a new star,” according to CNN “represents a new beginning” for those freed from slavery in Galveston and the rest of the U.S. The red and blue background colors are separated by an arc, which CNN notes is indicative of a new horizon and connotes the “the opportunities and promise that lay ahead for Black Americans.”

Haith explained to the Norwich Bulletin that the starburst as the representation of “a new people, with the star bursting out.” The curve of between the red and blue background colors “represents the star rising into the heavens, where the other stars are in the blue,” Haith said, noting that “we all belong to the universe.”

The red and blue background colors — along with the white star, burst and date — represent the American flag and serve as a reminder that slaves and their descendants are Americans. The inclusion of the June 19, 1865 date marks the date that enslaved Black people in Galveston learned they were freed from the institution of slavery.

While Haith’s flag design is widely used to help commemorate Juneteenth, he said he considers himself a small part of the holiday and all it stands for. 

“What’s happening with Juneteenth is much larger than me; I’m just a small part of it, and I appreciate people’s thanking me about designing the flag, which represents something much larger than itself,” he told the Norwich Bulletin. “Hopefully, people will start thinking about Juneteenth throughout the world, to help bring peace to our world