Did a Banner for This Juneteenth Event Feature Two White People?

A popular image featuring a banner showing white people while promoting a national holiday with roots in Black American history is legitimate — and showed the source of criticism around a Juneteenth event in Greenville, South Carolina.

The photograph, which was first posted on May 24 2023, depicted a white couple alongside the name of the group promoting the local event, Juneteenth GVL. The event, Juneteenth GVL Mega Fest, was billed as “an upstate celebration of freedom, unity, & love”:

Fact Check

Claim: A Juneteenth banner in South Carolina featured two white people.

Description: There was controversy and criticism over a Juneteenth banner in South Carolina, which featured two white people.


Rating Explanation: The claim was confirmed to be true, as stated in an article by the fact-checking site TruthOrFiction.com. The banner, which promoted a Juneteenth event in Greenville, did indeed feature a white couple.

“We did not want to make this exclusively Black,” Juneteenth GVL founder and chief executive officer Reuben Hays told the Greenville newspaper The State. “That is not in the spirit of unity.”

Hays said that other banners around the city featured Black, Latinx, and Asian residents, and that his group’s board of directors, who, like him, are all Black residents, were not pressured to incorporate other races into their promotional campaign.

“No matter what you believe, it takes everybody to come together and support and push any vision forward. We have been for so long asking for a seat at the table,” co-founder Pete Lee told WYFF-TV. “We have been knocking at the door for so long to include us. Now that we have a seat at the table, the last thing we want to do is what’s been done for years is to exclude.”

However, within days after the banners were spotted around the city, they were removed. Juneteenth GVL also posted an apology on the group’s Facebook page saying in part:

This error was an attempt at uniting all of Greenville and thereby a slight oversight on one individual’s part that prevented us from fully embracing the rich potential and celebrating the depth of the Black culture through the message and meaning of Juneteenth, and for that, we apologize to you the entire community.

The National Museum of African-American History & Culture calls Juneteenth “America’s second Independence Day.” The holiday marks the delayed fulfillment of the promise guaranteed in the Emancipation Proclamation, which was not enforced in holdout Confederate territories:

Freedom finally came on June 19, 1865, when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state, were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as “Juneteenth,” by the newly freed people in Texas.

As Juneteenth celebrations continued around the United States, then-Rep. Barbara Rose Collins of Michigan (D) introduced the Juneteenth Independence Day Act in 1996, the first legislation designed to recognize the occasion a federal holiday. A newer version of the bill, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, was passed by both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 2021 and signed into law by President Joe Biden on June 17 2021. According to the Pew Research Center, at least 24 states and the Distict of Columbia recognize the holiday.