Juneteenth Reflection: The New Red White and Blue

Lisa Gardner The Black Lens

“The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn…” — This powerful statement by Frederick Douglass on July 5th, 1852, in his speech “What to a Slave is Fourth of July”, starkly illustrates the glaring contrast in experiences between Black and White Americans during this period.

The Declaration of Independence of 1776, a beacon of hope, marked the independence of the first 13 states of the United States. This historic document, penned by the country’s founding fathers, boldly proclaimed independence with determination, passion, and a vision of a prosperous, resilient, and, most importantly, free nation. Yet, for the enslaved, this was a bitter irony. The freedoms of speech, religion, and bearing arms, values that have attracted people worldwide to yearn for the ideals embodied by Lady Freedom metaphorically, were cruelly denied to them. Their struggle for freedom was not a distant dream but a harsh reality, a constant battle against oppression.

Red, White, and Blue are the colors that adorn our American flag. Red represents courage and bravery. White represents purity and innocence. Blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice. It’s no secret that the representation of those colors did not apply to those who were enslaved. Despite being instrumental to the birth of the United States, Black Americans were long disregarded as only ¾ of a person.

Like Frederick Douglass proclaimed, the rich ideals of inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence was shared by White Americans, not by Black Americans. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation, granting freedom to Black Americans. However, the news took a long time to reach everyone, and it wasn’t until 1865 that the last slaves in Galveston, TX, were notified of their freedom. Today, we know and celebrate Black Liberation as “Juneteenth”, Freedom Day.

Still, the road to freedom is long and not fully realized. Black Americans went on to endure Jim Crow, segregation, the Civil Rights Era, mass incarceration, redlining, and the extreme numbers of police brutality and killings of Black men, reminiscent of the lynching of the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. Despite the domestic terrorism against them, Black Americans have been resilient through each era of oppression. Each rising more robust, united, and gaining more significance than the previous generation. Black Americans’ contributions to America have been undeniable in our ingenuity, athleticism, literature, politics, music, arts, and beauty. In the 161 years since Freedom Day, Black Americans have made contributions to this country that have aided in making what America is today.

According to flag creator Ben Haith, our Juneteenth Red, White, and Blue is a reminder that Black Americans descended from slaves who built the wealth of a nation and are surely Americans. So, for Black Americans, Juneteenth is our Independence Day, the day we sing our Black National Anthem, raise our Juneteenth Flag, and rejoice in our freedoms of the new, Red, White, and Blue.