Pan-African Flag
Pan-African Flag
Various other names
UseAfricans and Afro Caribbean/Americans.
Adopted13 August 1920
DesignA horizontal triband of red, black, and green.
Designed byMarcus Garvey

The Pan-African flag (also known as the Afro-American flag, Black Liberation flag, UNIA flag, and various other names) is an ethnic flag representing pan-Africanism, the African diaspora, and/or black nationalism.[1][2][3] A tri-color flag, it consists of three equal horizontal bands of (from top down) red, black, and green.[4]

The flag was created as a response to racism against African Americans in 1920 with the help of Marcus Garvey.[5] The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) formally adopted it on August 13, 1920, in Article 39 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World, during its month-long convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City.[6][7] Variations of the flag can and have been used in various countries and territories in the Americas to represent Garveyist ideologies.


Sheet music for "Every Race Has a Flag but the Coon"

The flag was created in 1920 by members of UNIA in response to the "coon song" that became a hit around 1900, titled, "Every Race Has a Flag but the Coon".[8][9] This song has been cited as one of the three songs that "firmly established the term coon in the American vocabulary". In a 1927 report of a 1921 speech appearing in the Negro World weekly newspaper, Marcus Garvey was quoted as saying:[10]

Show me the race or the nation without a flag, and I will show you a race of people without any pride. Aye! In song and mimicry they have said, "Every race has a flag but the coon." How true! Aye! But that was said of us four years ago. They can't say it now. ...

The Universal Negro Catechism, published by the UNIA in 1921, refers to the colors of the flag meaning:[11]

Red is the color of the blood which men must shed for their redemption and liberty; black is the color of the noble and distinguished race to which we belong; green is the color of the luxuriant vegetation of our Motherland.

Journalist Charles Mowbray White has asserted that Garvey proposed the colors red, black and green for the following reasons: "Garvey said red because of sympathy for the 'Reds of the world', and the Green their sympathy for the Irish in their fight for freedom, and the Black [for] the Negro."[12]

According to the UNIA more recently, the three colors on the Black Nationalist flag represent:

The Texas Black Liberation Flag

The flag later became a Black Nationalist symbol for the worldwide liberation of Black people. As an emblem of Black pride, the flag became popular during the Black Liberation movement of the 1960s. In 1971, the school board of Newark, New Jersey, passed a resolution permitting the flag to be raised in public school classrooms. Four of the board's nine members were not present at the time, and the resolution was introduced by the board's teen member, a mayoral appointee. Fierce controversy ensued, including a court order that the board show cause why they should not be forced to rescind the resolution, and at least two state legislative proposals to ban ethnic flags and national flags (other than the U.S. flag) in public classrooms.[14]


June 19, 1865, is the date in which enslaved people in Galveston, Texas finally received the news of their freedom. This is commemorated every June 19 with Juneteenth, which is considered the longest-running African American holiday. Many in the African American community have adopted the Pan-African flag to represent Juneteenth.[15] The Juneteenth holiday became an official federal holiday June 17, 2021 and does have its own flag, however, created in 1997 – the Juneteenth flag.[16]

2010s usage

In the United States, following the refusal of a grand jury to indict a police officer in the August 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a Howard University student replaced the U.S. flag on that school's Washington, D.C. campus flagpole with a "black solidarity" flag (this tricolor) flying at half-mast.[17][18][19]

2020s usage

In February 2023, the Pan-African flag was flown over the Denver Federal Center to commemorate Black History Month, which was the first time that flag was flown over any federal building.[20] In Martinique, a new flag was raised which symbolises the same ties to Africa.

Derivative flags

Flags of nation states

A number of flags of nation states in African and the Caribbean have been inspired by the UNIA flag. The Biafran flag is another variant of the UNIA flag with a sunburst in the center. Designed by the Biafran government and first raised in 1967, the colors are directly based on Garvey's design.[21]

The flag of Malawi issued in 1964 is very similar, reflects the Black Nationalist flag's order of stripes. It is not directly based on Garvey's flag, although the colors have the same symbolism: Red for blood symbolizing the struggle of the people, green for vegetation, and black for the race of the people.[22]

The Kenyan flag (Swahili: Bendera ya Kenya) is a tricolor of black, red, and green with two white fimbriations imposed, with a Masai shield and two crossed spears. It was officially adopted on 12 December 1963 after Kenya's independence, inspired by the pan-African tricolour.[23]

The flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis has similar colors, arranged diagonally and separated by yellow lines. It similar to the Malawian flag in that the colors are not directly taken from the Pan-African flag but the symbolism is the same.[24]

Derivative flags in the United States

The Kwanzaa Bendera

In the 1960s The Us Organization redesigned the UNIA flag also changing order and significance of the colours to: black, red and green. Defining "black" for the people, "red" for struggle, and "green" for the future built "out of struggle".[25]

United States Postal Service issued a stamp in 1997 to commemorate the African-American festival of Kwanzaa with a painting by artist Synthia Saint James of a dark-skinned family wearing garments traditional in parts of Africa and fashionable for special occasions among African-Americans. The family members are holding food, gifts, and a flag. The flag in the stamp may have been meant to represent the Pan-African flag but instead used the similar flag (a black, red, and green horizontal tricolour) of the Black nationalist organisation Us Organization, which shares its founder, professor and activist Maulana Karenga, with Kwanzaa.[26]

The bendera (flag in the Kiswahili language) was documented as an supplemental symbol of Kwanzaa, in Karenga's 1998 book The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa, and included in ceremonial use during the festival.[26]


Main article: African-American Flag

In 1990, artist David Hammons created a work called African-American Flag, which is held by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Based on the standard U.S. flag, its stripes are black and red, the canton field is green, and the stars on the canton field are black.[27]

Alternative names

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The flag goes by several other names with varying degrees of popularity:

Proposed holiday

In 1999, an article appeared in the July 25 edition of The Black World Today suggesting that, as an act of global solidarity, every August 17 should be celebrated worldwide as Universal African Flag Day by flying the red, black, and green banner. August 17 is the birthday of Marcus Garvey.[28]

See also


  1. ^ "Behind the Pan-African UNIA flag". Retrieved 2024-03-20.
  2. ^ "Pan-African Flag | Black Student Center | CSUSM". Retrieved 2024-03-20.
  3. ^ Shelby, Tommie (2003). "Two Conceptions of Black Nationalism: Martin Delany on the Meaning of Black Political Solidarity". Political Theory. 31 (5): 664–692. doi:10.1177/0090591703252826. ISSN 0090-5917.
  4. ^ Donnella, Leah (June 14, 2017). "On Flag Day, Remembering The Red, Black And Green". NPR. Retrieved June 17, 2021.
  5. ^ "Behind the Pan African UNIA flag".
  6. ^ "25,000 NEGROES CONVENE :International Gathering Will Prepare Own Bill of Rights". The New York Times. August 2, 1920. Retrieved October 5, 2007 – via ProQuest.
  7. ^ "NEGROES ADOPT BILL OF RIGHTS: Convention Approves Plan for African Republic and Sets to Work on Preparation of Constitution of the Colored Race Negro Complaints Aggression Condemned Recognition Demanded". Christian Science Monitor. August 17, 1920. Retrieved October 5, 2007 – via ProQuest..
  8. ^ "New Flag for Afro-Americans". African Times and Orient Review. No. 1. October 1912. p. 134.
  9. ^ RACE FIRST: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. 1987. p. 43.
  10. ^ Garvey, Marcus (March 19, 1927). "Honorable Marcus Garvey, Gifted Man of Vision, Sets Out In Unanswerable Terms the Reasons Why Negroes Must Build in Africa". Negro World. Vol. XXII, no. 6. Universal Negro Improvement Association.
  11. ^ Mcguire, George (1921). Universal Negro catechism: a course of instruction in religious and historical knowledge pertaining to the race. New York: Universal Negro Improvement Association. p. 34. hdl:2027/emu.010000685445.
  12. ^ Garvey Papers Vol. 2, p. 603.
  13. ^ "History – Red – Black – Green". The Official Website of the United Negro Improvement Association and the African Communities League. Archived from the original on 27 August 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  14. ^ Pan-African Flag | Black Student Center - CSUSM
  15. ^ Wilson, Sara (June 16, 2021). "Juneteenth colors and its meaning behind the federal holiday". WDHN. Archived from the original on August 15, 2021. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  16. ^ Philippe, McKenzie Jean. "The Juneteenth flag was created in 1997". Oprah. Retrieved 27 May 2022.
  17. ^ "Chocahontas on Twitter: "Howard University replaced the American flag with a Black solidarity flag today. At half mast". Archived from the original on 2015-03-13. Retrieved 2015-08-18.
  18. ^ Jaschik, Scott (2014-12-01). "Howard U. President Issues Statement on Flag Protest". Retrieved 2017-04-06.
  19. ^ "Statement by President Frederick Concerning the University Flagpole". Howard University. Archived from the original on 2015-08-08. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  20. ^ "Black History Flag flies over federal building for the first time in history".
  21. ^ Okonkwo, Ivan Emeka (June 2018). "POLITICAL ACTIVISM IN VISUAL EXPRESSION: IPOB AND THE BIAFRA QUESTION IN THE SOUTH EAST OF NIGERIA". Igwebuike: An African Journal of Arts and Humanities. 4 (2).
  22. ^ Achebe, Chinua (October 11, 2012). There Was a Country: A Memoir. Penguin. ISBN 9781101595985 – via Google Books.
  23. ^ Gathara, Patrick (2018-08-02). "GATHARA - BLACK, RED AND GREEN: The story behind the Kenyan flag". The Elephant. Retrieved 2020-06-29.
  24. ^ Bordeleau, André G. (2013). Flags of the Night Sky: When Astronomy Meets National Pride. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9781461409298 – via Google Books.
  25. ^ Karenga, Maulana (1997). Kwanzaa: A celebrations of family, community and culture. California, USA: University of Sankore Press. pp. 88–89. ISBN 978-0-943412-21-4.
  26. ^ a b Mayes, Keith A. (2009). Kwanzaa: Black Power and the Making of the African-American Holiday Tradition. Routledge. pp. 181, 230. ISBN 978-1-135-28400-8.
  27. ^ "David Hammons. African American Flag. 1990 | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  28. ^ "Marcus Garvey (August 17, 1887 - June 10, 1940)". 22 December 2017.