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African-American flags (U.S.)

Last modified: 2015-03-07 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | african-american | heritage | ethiopia | pan-african | garvey | rasta |
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Red-Black-Green

[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 African 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


Red-Black-Green with Africa Outline

[Afro-American Red-Black-Green with Africa Outline flag] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 August 2011

This variant of Garvey's flag has unchanged color order, but is amended with a large outline of Africa in white. I have seen it offered for sale at several web shops, such as here: www.acaciawoodcarvings.com.
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 August 2011


Red-Black-Green with Red Star

[Afro-American Red-Black-Green with Red Star flag] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 August 2011

This variant of Garvey's flag has unchanged color order, but is amended with a red star in center of the black field was seen in Oakland, California in 1989, at the funeral of Huey Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party. The photos from the event can be seen here:
www.painetworks.com/previews/hl/hl0618.html?clientid=IDABXORB&ln=en&text=
and here:
www.painetworks.com/previews/hl/hl2463.html?clientid=IDABXORB&ln=en&text=

It was certainly brought there by the Black Panthers' sympathizers, but is yet to be found if it was their official flag as well. So far, no evidence is available on the Web. It might be worth noting, though, that it seems that the New Black Panther Party, their self-designated successor, makes use of plain red-black-green flag only - at least, only that one was seen in the photos related to them so far.

Tomislav Todorovic, 8 August 2011


Black-Red-Green

[Afro-American Black-Red-Green flag] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 7 August 2011

This variant of African-American flag uses the colors introduced by Marcus Garvey, but in a different order:

The black-red-green flag has first appeared on a stamp issued by the United States Postal Service in 1997 to commemorate Kwanzaa, the African-American yearly celebration [1]. Compared with the Garvey's flag, it has the black and red fields with swapped places, so it might have been created as an error [2]. Still there are examples of its use in real life, like the African-American Parade in Cleveland, Ohio, on 2011-06-04, where at least one such flag was carried among many red-black-green flags [3]. There is also a blog entry about Kwanzaa [4] with two accompanied photos, one showing an African woman holding the said flag and another one showing the same woman with a little Caucasian girl before the kinara (the Kwanzaa candle holder), which is set upon a spread flag with this design.

Sources:
[1] Wikipedia page about Kwanzaa: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwanzaa
[2] Wikipedia page about Garvey's flag: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American_Flag
[3] ClevelandPeople.Com website: www.clevelandpeople.com/groups/africanamerican/2011/parade.htm
[4] Rimadyl For Dogs blog: blog, Image 1, Image 2

Tomislav Todorovic, 7 August 2011


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, www.afroamericanflag.com, 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


African American Flag of Inclusion

[African American flag of inclusion] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 11 January 2015

Cecil Lee's first public showing of the African American Flag of Inclusion was in 1999 at a one man art show at Gallery X in Harlem. In 1998 he coined the term "Computer Evolved Multi-medium Art" a form of computer art from which the acronym "CEMA" is derived.

Created in 1999 the "African American Flag of Inclusion" represents a concept that has long been part of many an African American's psyche, expressing a reality many of us consciously or unconsciously have acknowledged. It is also an identifying motif intended to represent all African Americans regardless of their individual beliefs or political affiliations.

A symbol whose time has come The African American Flag of Inclusion reaches beyond religious, political and philosophical beliefs reflecting the African Americans' unique contributions and accomplishments toward the inventiveness, creativity, building, growth and stability of the United States of America.

The elements of the African American Flag of Inclusion stand for:
red = life/blood, family, vitality & oneness
black = the people, strength, depth & influence
green = earth, evolution, growth & progress
stars & stripes = equality & unification

Source: ceelee.com/flag/index.htm
Nelson Román, 2 November 2003


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.
source: www.geocities.com/Athens/Troy/6484/index.html

Submitted by Dov Gutterman, 4 April 1999


Confederate Flag variation

[African-American variation] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 6 November 2001

Two days ago in Oakland I spotted a car driven by an African-American man with an interesting flag in the spot where the front license plate would generally go: it was by pattern a rectangular "Confederate Battle Flag" but the colors were altered to be pan-African colors. The saltire was black, the stars and fimbriation for the saltire were green.
Josh Fruhlinger, 17 July 1998

This is the emblem of a company that makes clothes aimed at black American consumers. It appears on their clothing (along with the company's acronym below, which I don't recall), but it may have passed into common usage.
Nathan Lamm, 6 November 2001


Afro-American Community Services Organization

[African-American variation] image by Paul San Pavlos, 27 December 2002

I observed in Santa Barbara. It was labeled: "Flag of Afro-Americans by the Afro-American Community Services Organization." I have neither been able to locate them on the web or in the Santa Barbara phone directory. I know nothing more about this flag, its usage, origins, etc.
Paul San Pavlos, 27 December 2002


African-American Heritage Flag

[African-American Heritage flag] image collected by Gary Gilbert, 19 January 2005

This flag has been seen about five miles from Springfield, Massachusetts, and has been determined to be the African-American Heritage Flag. It was developed about 20 years ago and has been marketed by the designer. It does not have any official status. The wreath and sword refer to traditional African symbols.
Michael Faul and Whitney Smith, 19 January 2005


Black-Green-Red with Green Stars

[Afro-American with Green Starsflag] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 20 June 2012

The flag shown here was carried in Washington, D.C. on 20 January 2009 by some people who attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama. It resembles one of the flags reported to have appeared at the at Juneteenth parade in 2011, but the stars are green here. The photo of the flag can be seen here: cache.jezebel.com/assets/images/39/2009/01/medium_african_american_flag.jpg
Tomislav Todorovic, 20 June 2012