Black, Red, and Green Flag: The History and Meaning of the Pan-African Flag

Pan African flag
© Wasan Ritthawon/

Written by Jennifer Gaeng

Published: January 15, 2023

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To African Americans, the Pan-African flag stands for independence and liberty. An anti-racism symbol, the flag’s origins date back to the early 20th century. Each of the flag’s primary colors—red, black, and green—carries symbolic weight. It serves as a sobering reminder that although we have come far, we still have a way to go before we achieve true equality. This article will delve deeper into the significance, symbolism, and history of the Pan-African flag.

Pan-African Flag History

Pan-African flag

The Pan-African flag was designed in 1920.

©Svet foto/

The unique Pan-African flag of red, black, and green was designed in 1920. It is also known as the Afro-American banner, the UNIA flag, and the Black Liberation flag. It was designed to symbolize Black Americans’ freedom, pride, and political power and is sometimes referred to as the “Marcus Garvey flag.” This is due to the fact that Garvey played a heavily active role in the liberation of oppression among the black community. In fact, he established the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the African Communities League. He also participated in Jamaican politics and was a journalist and public speaker (UNIA). To advance anti-colonialism and Black nationalism, he and his fellow activists formed an organization.

As a direct reaction to the racist folk song “Every Race Has a Flag but the Coon,” UNIA members like Garvey designed the Pan-African flag. After hundreds of years of slavery and disenfranchisement, its designers wanted the flag to serve as a symbol of unity for African Americans and prove that they should legitimately be considered a single nation.

In the 1960s, the Pan-African flag was adopted as a symbol of the Black Liberation struggle. In modern times, the flag has become a universal emblem. It is frequently displayed at MLK Day parades, civil rights activities, and other public gatherings. Protests using the flag gained widespread attention as they were linked to demonstrations against the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown.

Its Significance to Black History

The Pan-African flag is still used as a political symbol today. Because of its long association with Black emancipation and its use in previous civil rights struggles, anyone who flies this flag in 2022 will have a lot of influence.  The flag, which has been used in various efforts to end the struggle among Black Americans, serves as a symbol of both the progress we have made and the challenges we still face in our pursuit of justice.

Outside of America, the Pan-African flag enjoys widespread acceptance. Late in the 20th century, several newly independent African countries, such as Kenya, Libya, and Malawi, adopted flags based on the Pan-African colors. The colors and symbols of the flag are also used in the paraphernalia and symbolism of other Black American holidays and festivals, such as Kwanzaa and Juneteenth.

In many societies, icons play a significant role in everyday life. There is now a model set by the Pan-African flag for how African Americans can take pride in their own cultural heritage. The Black flag represents pride, togetherness, and the power to effect change for numerous members of the Black community.

Pan-African Flag Design

The Pan-African flag is a tricolor flag made up of three equally portioned horizontal stripes of red, black, and green (top to bottom).

Pan-African Flag Symbolism

The Pan-African flag is often seen during rallies and other social justice events. Since the early 20th century, the flag has been shown at many significant historical events and has come to symbolize the strength of the African American community.

The Pan-African flag has symbolic meanings for each of its colors. Because of slavery and oppression, all Black people share a common bond, and this bond is symbolized by the color red. Sadly, Black American history is also a history of bigotry and brutality. Black people have a long history of oppression and violence, not just in the United States but all throughout the world.  The black stripe in the flag’s middle represents the color of Black people’s skin and demonstrates the cohesiveness of their community.

The color green is a symbol of Africa’s fertile soil. The African American community in the United States is, in many respects, a nomadic people. In part due to the American slave trade, countless people today still have little knowledge of their own ancestry. The color green on the Pan-African flag represents a yearning for roots in a nation that is fertile and growing.

These three hues come together to symbolize the energy of Black Americans, diverse and creative people who are making strides toward building a home of their own and a world where they are not oppressed.

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About the Author

Jennifer Gaeng is a writer at A-Z-Animals focused on animals, lakes, and fishing. With over 15 years of collective experience in writing and researching, Jennifer has honed her skills in various niches, including nature, animals, family care, and self-care. Hailing from Missouri, Jennifer finds inspiration in spending quality time with her loved ones. Her creative spirit extends beyond her writing endeavors, as she finds joy in the art of drawing and immersing herself in the beauty of nature.

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