Juneteenth Celebrations have long included several foods and drinks imbued with red hues. These foods may include Red Velvet Cake, strawberry soda, watermelon, barbeque, and other red items. But why the red food? Young people are often told about how the red color symbolizes all of the people who suffered and died at the hands of enslavers. This is part of the story, but the roots of red food also relate to countries of origin from which people were kidnapped.
Traditions and customs are passed down for many reasons, and the same is true for the inclusion of red as a significant color for Juneteenth. Some people discuss how red fabric was used as a method used by enslavers to kidnap Black people. Other people describe specific cultural roots of different nations. In Asante and Yoruba, special occasions included offering animal blood. West African plants such as the Kola nut and the hibiscus flower were served to guests and used in cooking, both of which included distinctive red coloring. Traditions such as these carried on after the Emancipation Proclamation. As generation after generation includes similar foods in celebrations and surrounding family gatherings, the red foods tie those who celebrate to those who came before.
More information about the history of red foods at Juneteenth can be found here.