The Connection To Africa In Juneteenth's Red Foods And Drinks

black man and black woman standing close together smiling down at a vegetable the black woman is holding
Briona Lamback
June 1, 2022

When our people gather on Juneteenth, there's always music and parades, but the star of the show is often the food. From watermelon to BBQ, there's plenty to eat – usually including an assortment of red bites and drinks. 

But what's the significance of Junteenth's red eats?

Red punch. Red velvet cake. For years, elders passed on that Junteenth's red-hued foods symbolized the bloodshed of millions of enslaved Africans who died at the hands of white supremacy. But there could be an even deeper reason.

Africa! According to culinary historian Michael Twitty, these red foods and drinks likely have ties to similar foods that originated in the cultures of the Yoruba and Kongo people enslaved in Texas. 

Across the diaspora, red shows up on many plates because of plants like hibiscus. Traditionally, in West Africa, red is considered a color of spirituality, strength, life, and death.

Enslaved people even used red corn to make their own whiskey! But the origins of many Black traditions, regardless of culture, go way deeper than whites and enslavement. We can never forget that.

No matter the origin of our practices, it's crucial that we keep these celebrations of Black culture and traditions intact. We should embrace any chance to celebrate us, because it's what will help us build the strong Black communities necessary for our liberation.

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