FLAG EXPLAINER | Marcus Garvey's Pan-African Flag

Posted by Michael Green on

To kick of Black History Month 2022, I wanted to do a quick flag explainer about the Pan-African Flag, also known as the Afro-American flag, the Black Liberation flag, the UNIA flag, (I could go on) designed by famous black nationalist, Marcus Garvey.

It is a simple tri-color consisting of three equal horizontal bands of red, black and green (from top down respectively) .

Pan-African Flag Design Explainer

The UNIA states that:

Red represents the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry, and shed for liberation

Black is for Black people whose existence as a nation, though not a nation-state, is affirmed by the flag

and Green is for The abundant natural wealth of Africa

It was designed by Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey who was first President-General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA).

Marcus Garvey designed this flag largely in response to a popular (very racist) song at the time which stated that every race had a flag except Black people (in more...racist...words).

Even though this was said in less than respectful way, Marcus Garvey kind of agreed.

Garvey is quoted in the Negro World newspaper saying: “Show me the race or the nation without a flag, and I will show you a race of people without any pride... How true! Aye! But that was said of us four years ago. They can't say it now...”

Another quote from Garvey about African Nationalism:

“The cry is raised all over the world of Canada for the Canadians, of America for the Americans, of England for the English, of France for the French, of Germany for the Germans. Do you think it unreasonable that we, the Blacks of the world, should raise a cry of Africa for the Africans?”

I would absolutely love to do a deep dive on Garveyism, but if you want to really learn about it, the podcast 99% Invisible did a great episode about it.

This flag soon became a worldwide African nationalist symbol, standing for the liberation of all people of African origin.

“Oh yes, the cause is grand, the cause is glory. Surely will shall not turn back. Oh sail on! Sail on! Sail on! Oh Mighty Ship of State, "Sail on!". Sail on until the flag of the red, the black and the green is perched upon the hilltops of Africa.” -Marcus Garvey

And it has. The Pan-African Flag went on to influence many African nations as they came out of colonialism and found new national identities. The colors of Red Black and Green appear in many current African national flags.

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