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Afro-American flags (U.S.)

Last modified: 2012-06-22 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | afro-american | heritage | ethiopia | pan-african | garvey | rasta |
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[Afro-American Red-Black-Green flag] image by Rick Wyatt, 5 April 1998

Green, black, and red are the Garvey colors, after Marcus Garvey, a civil rights movement leader. If I recall correctly, he promoted the "returning to Africa" -- if not geographically, at least by "rediscovering" the ancestral heritage of afro-americans.
Antonio Martins, 11 December 1997

The colors are as represented on the flag, Red, Black and Green (not Green, black and red ) and did indeed evolve from Marcus Garvey's UNIA movement. However, the colors were adopted by an international assemblage of 25 countries of the African diaspora, thereby making the colors international.

African Americans have held proudly onto their banner for the past 78 years hoisting it under various titles: International African Flag, The African Flag, Pan African Flag, Liberation Flag, Black Flag, African American Flag, Afro-American Flag and others. Yes, the colors were hoisted first in the United States and, it represents all peoples of the African Diaspora regardless of land of birth.

Rasta colors and The Pan African (Garvey Flag) colors not the same and should not be confused. Rasta colors are the Ethiopian colors of green, gold and red.

Beatrice C. Jones, 16 November 1998

The RED, BLACK and GREEN Flag was unveiled to the world by the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and the members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, of the World at it's first international convention on August 13, 1920. The UNIA-ACL knew that Africans at home and abroad needed their own flag as other flags around the world could not represent the collective of African people.

The use of Red, Black and Green as colors symbolizing African nationhood was first "adopted by the UNIA-ACL as part of the 1920 Declaration of Rights as the official colors of the African race. The question of a flag for the race was not as trivial as might have appeared on the surface, for in the United States especially, the lack of an African symbol of nationhood seems to have been cause for crude derision on the part of whites and a source of sensitivity on the part of Afro-Americans.

The race catechism Garveyites used explained the significance of the red, black, and green as for the "color of the blood which men must shed for their redemption and liberty", black for "the color of the noble and distinguished race to which we belong," and green for "the luxuriant vegetation of our Motherland.

Nnamdi Azikewe, 12 April 2000

My understanding is that Garvey thought (erroneously) that these were the colors of ancient Ethiopia - the Ethiopia of today was known as Abyssinia at the time Garvey proposed the flag.
Devereaux Cannon and Ned Smith, 10 July 1999

My understanding is that Marcus Garvey was thinking of contemporary Ethiopia, which in the 1920's was the only African country that had never been colonized. He became aware of his error as to its national colors at the time of Haile Selassie's coronation as emperor, but by that time the red/black/green flag was too well established to be changed.
John Ayer, 10 July 1999

13 Stripes

[Afro-American 13 Stripes flag] image by Michael P. Smuda, 6 November 1998

I found another Afro-American flag while surfing the web. This flag was developed in 1989 in South Central L.A.
According to their site,, the symbolism of the colors is as follows:
        GOLD is for the richness of the people
        BLACK is for the people
        RED is for the blood shed
        Green is for the earth
Dov Gutterman, 6 November 1998

I have never heard of this one. The red/black/green flag is made by all flag manufacturers. My guess is that this is a private venture.
Rick Wyatt, 8 November 1998

Flag of the "African American Flag House"

[flag of the African American Flag House] image by Rick Wyatt, 3 December 2001

Meaning of the Stars:

  • The First Star announces that all humankind was born out of the womb of Africa.
  • The Second Star informs with pride that the African gave rise to the first civilizations and kingdoms of the world.
  • The Third Star depicts the cruel abduction of Africans from their original roots.
  • The Fourth Star vows that African Americans will never forget the holocaust of the Middle passage and the millions of Africans who suffered and died during the terrible crossing.
  • The Fifth Star recalls the unholy bondage of African Americans prior to the abolishment of slavery in America.
  • The Sixth Star praises all those African Americans who defied and rebelled against injustice and genocide in America.
  • The Seventh Star is a memorial to African Americans who have silently or aggressively defended and preserved the Constitution of the United States of America.
  • The Eighth Star recognizes the strength of the African American family and its inner spiritual belief in universal brotherhood.
  • The Ninth Star is a testament to the strength and tenacity of African Americans to emerge victorious despite any adversity or challenge.
  • The Tenth Star honors African Americans for their accomplishments in making the American dream a reality.
  • The Eleventh Star calls for African Americans to probe their history and to celebrate their culture and heritage.
  • The Twelfth Star signifies the achievements of African Americans through hard work, scholarship, and determination.
  • The Thirteenth Star is the symbol of Pan African unity.
  • The Fourteenth Star leads African Americans into the future with honor, truth, and the dream of a greater tomorrow.
Meaning of the Stripes:
  • The Green Stripes remind us of our living earth and the roots of all humanity buried deep in African soil
  • The Yellow Stripes symbolize the moral excellence and spiritual wealth of African Americans as they interact with all diverse cultures of America.
  • The Black Stripes of the African American Flag underscore African American families and their significant economic, spiritual, social, and political contributions to America.
  • The White Stripes warn African Americans to be constantly vigilant of forces that call for death of freedom and the surrender of rights guaranteed to all by the Constitution of the United States of America.
  • The Blue Stripes illustrate lofty skies that will always extend a bridge between African Americans and Africa.
  • The Red Stripes tell of the passionate and soulful fire within the hearts of African Americans and that ther blood shed in defense of freedom shall not be in vain.

Submitted by Dov Gutterman, 4 April 1999