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Modern American Protest and Message Flags - Part I

        Accepting the notion that many of the flags used by the British Colonists prior to the American Revolution and many of the secession flags of the American Civil War can be considered "Protest Flags," I ignore them on this section as they are featured in their own individual sections of this website, and concentrate on the lesser known and more modern flags of either protest or message flags used by Americans today. It also should be noted that some of the flags on this page can't be considered either "protest" or "message" flags, they are rather "aspiration" flags. By this it is meant that it is the manner in which they are used that determines what they are. For example, a peace flag reflects an aspiration and it only becomes a protest flag when used that way, otherwise, it remains just a peace flag.


Image by Rick Wyatt
The UNIA Flag

Image by Tomislav Todorovic
UNIA Flag Variant #1

Image by Tomislav Todorovic
UNIA Flag Variant #2

Black Liberation Flag 1920

The Black Liberation Flag, also known as the Afro-American Flag, Pan-African Flag, and the UNIA Flag, is a symbol of African and African-American unity and pride. In the 1960s this flag became a symbol of Black liberation in the United States. This design was first adopted in 1920 as the official banner of the African Race at a meeting of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA) held in New York City.

This flag uses what is known as the pan-African colors (red, black and green). The red represents the blood shed in the struggle for liberation. The black color represents the Black race, the green color represents the natural resources of Africa from where the Black race comes from. The flag has also been called at various times the Marcus Garvey flag, the Black Nationalist Flag, the African National Flag, the New Afrikan Liberation Flag, the African-American Flag, the Universal African flag, and the International African Flag.

The second flag shown (Variant #2) is an African-American flag which uses the colors introduce by Marcus Garvey, but uses them in a different order. This black-red-green flag first appeared on a stamp issued by the United States Postal Service in 1997 to commemorate Kwanzaa, the African-American yearly celebration. Since then, it has appeared in the African-American Parade in Cleveland, Ohio, where it was seen mixed in with flags in the more normal red-black-green pattern.

The third flag shown (Variant #3) with the large white outline of Africa is currently offered for sale at several websites; its exact first use date and origin is unknown.

Another version reported, but not shown here, apparently had a red star added to the center black strip and was used by Black Panthers' sympathizers in Oakland, California, in 1989, at the funeral of Huey Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party. See the "Black Panther Party" on the "Political Flags of Extremism" page for more information.


Image by Rob Davis
Brotherhood Flag

World Peace Association (WPA) Flag 1958

The World Peace Association (WPA) was based in Jenkins, Minnesota. The flag was dedicated at Odessa, New York, in May of 1958. It was used at the exhibit for the association at the Brussels World's Fair.

The Brotherhood Flag consists of five horizontal stripes of equal width. The top strip is red, the second stripe is white, the third stripe is brown, the fourth strip is yellow, and the fifth or bottom stripe is black. Each stripe represents one of the five different groups of the human race.


Image by Rick Wyatt
Peace Flag

Image by Rick Wyatt
U.S. Peace Flag

Peace Protest Flags 1960-1970s

In the 1960's a strong protest movement was born among the draft age college students to protest the Vietnam War. At first the student protesters used crude peace symbols, usually black painted on white backgrounds, at their rallies. The peace symbol was also spray painted on walls and clothing.

The Peace Symbol itself is an internationally recognized symbol for peace that was originally designed for the British nuclear disarmament movement by Gerald Holtom in 1958. Holtom, an artist and designer, made it for a march from Trafalgar Square, London, to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in England. The symbol is a combination of the semaphore signals for the letters "N" and "D," standing for "nuclear disarmament". The original drawing by Gerald Holtom of the symbol is housed in the Peace Museum in Bradford, England.

The use of the symbol as a flag was rare in the early protest rallies, where signs of protest leaned heavily on the burning of flags rather than carrying them. However, as the protest movement matured into the Peace Movement several popular flag designs emerged.


Image by Pete Loeser
UFW Flag


Image by Pete Loeser
UFW Strike Flag

United Farm Workers 1962

In 1962, Cesar Cesar and Dolores Huerta founded the United Farm Workers. Their goal was to organize the Mexican agricultural workers and improve their working conditions, mostly in California. For two decades they attempted to raise public awareness to the struggles of the farm workers for better pay and safer working conditions. They eventually succeeded, using nonviolent tactics, boycotts, pickets, strikes, and hunger strikes.

Richard Chavez designed the UFW black eagle and his brother Cesar chose the black-white-red colors (white for their hope, black for their struggle, and red for their sacrifice) for their flags design. The story told is that Richard first sketched a "Aztec, or Mexican" black eagle on a piece of brown wrapping paper, then squared off the wing edges so that the eagle would be easier for union members to draw on their handmade red flags and banners.

The black eagle (some have called it a thunderbird) became a powerful symbol and the farm workers and their supporters proudly carried the black eagle flags and banners, sometimes with the words "huelga" (strike), or "viva la causa" (Long live our cause) or simply "UFW AFL-CIO" (for the United Farm Workers, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) added to the basic design within their white "circle of hope." The similarity of the design to far-left and right extremist flags was not lost to their detractors.


Image by Rick Wyatt
MIA-POW Flag

Image by Rick Wyatt
Agent Orange Flag

MIA/POW Flags and Agent Orange Flags

Two more Vietnam War Era protest flags that are still in use are the "Missing In Action, Prisoner of War" Flags (MIA/POW) being flown by those wishing to remind people that there are still American soldiers missing in action and possibly being held as prisoner by the Vietnamese government. These flags can be found with white and black backgrounds, and with silver, white or red lettering. The flags state: "You are not forgotten." Interesting enough, in 1990, Congress adopted the MIA/POW flag as a symbol of our nation's concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still held prisoner, or missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia," thus making it a national flag which entitles it to be flown above all State flags.

Image by Rick Wyatt
   
Image by Rick Wyatt
MIA/POW Flag (Type #2)
   
MIA/POW Flag (Type #3)

The second type of protest flag to come out of the Vietnam War era is from those angered with the secret use of Agent Orange to defoliate the Vietnam jungles, and especially about the harmful health effects the use of this chemical had on people and troops who came in contact with it.



"50 United Fascist States" Flag

Black Panther Protest Flag 1966

In 1966, in Oakland, California, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The Panthers practiced what they called "self-defense" for the minority communities against the U.S. government, and fought to establish revolutionary socialism through mass organizing and community based programs. The party was one of the first organizations in U.S. history to militantly struggle for ethnic minority and working class emancipation, and their agenda was the revolutionary establishment of real economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines.

Black Panther Activist Bobby Seals and Angela Davis protested the use of what they called the "Fascist Pigs" of the local and State police forces that conspired against the Black Panther movement. This flag was reportedly used at one of their protest rallies, but currently has not been documented.


Image by Dave Martucci
US Ecology Flag

American Ecology Movement Flag 1967

This Ecology flag was first made by the San Francisco based Paramount Flag Company in 1967. This flag was based on the Stars and Stripes, but used dark green instead of blue and light green instead of red. The colors were said to represent "pure air and green land" and environmental action.

This flag has seen limited use at American Ecology Conferences, meetings and protests since the 1970s.


Image by Tripodero
AIM Flag

Image by Tripodero
AIM Flag (variant)

Image from Rick Prohaska
Remember Wounded Knee
40th Anniversary Flag 2013

American Indian Movement Flags 1968

The American Indian Movement (AIM) is a Native American activist organization in the United States. Founded in 1968, AIM calling itself the "Trail of Broken Treaties," began championing the cause of Indian unity. AIM was founded by Dennis Banks, George Mitchell, Herb Powless, Clyde Bellecourt, Harold Goodsky, and Eddie Benton-Banai in Minneapolis to address issues of Native American poverty, housing, treaty issues, and police harassment.

In 1972, AIM gained international press when it seized the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C., and again in 1973 at a standoff at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Their goal was to take a stand against centuries of what they claimed was mismanaged by the U.S. government policy and trust.

In the decades since AIM's founding, the group has led protests "advocating indigenous American interests, inspired cultural renewal, monitored police activities, and coordinated employment programs in cities and in rural reservation communities across the United States." They continue to sponsor protest marches, long walks, and numerous conferences supporting both Canadian and American Native American interest.

In 2013 AIM released a special flag commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 71 day occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. The site was obviously chosen for its symbolic value as the location of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. The 1973 incident began when approximately 200 Oglala Lakota and followers of the American Indian Movement seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The protest followed the failure to impeach tribal president Richard Wilson, whom they accused of corruption. The gun toting Oglala and AIM activists controlled the town for 71 days while the United States Marshals Service, FBI agents, and other law enforcement agencies exchanged gun fire. In the end, the siege was successful, but the violence continued between the opponents of the tribal government and Wilson's supporters for the next three years resulting in over 60 known deaths.


Image by A.H.
Flag of Earth

Flag of Earth 1969

The "Flag of Earth" was designed by an Illinois farmer named James Cadle shortly after the first manned landing on the moon in 1969. It consists of a blue circle, representing the earth, on a black background. To the left is a segment of a large yellow circle, representing the sun. On the lower right is a small white circle, representing the moon.

It was meant to be a flag for all nations and yet a flag of no nation. There are no rules to observe in displaying the flag, it could be flown at any time, in any weather, for any reason. The Flag of Earth Movement had no political, cultural or geographical affiliations. The flag itself was made by the Paramount Flag Company of San Francisco in the 1970’s and 1980’s. They were purchased mostly by astronomers where the flag apparently became quite popular. It was flown all over the globe, including in the former Soviet Union at observatories. They became very popular with SETI, and a similar design is still in use by the environmental group Knights of Gaia (the Earth).


Image by Henry A. Waxman and António Martins
McConnell Earth Flag

Earth Day Flag 1970

The Earth Flag, often called the Earth Day Flag, was designed by John McConnell in 1970. It is the photographic image of the earth taken during the flight of Apollo 10 in 1969, viewed from above the Indian Ocean just east of the Cape of Good Hope, on a background of dark blue.

The first Earth Flag was created for the first Earth Day in San Francisco in March of 1970. It was primarily a Peace Day. Later, McConnell became active in the United Nations Earth Society Foundation where he met Margaret Mead, who really made the Earth Flag the icon it has become today. She literally carried it with her wherever she went. It is still sold by flag companies today.


Image by António Martins
Italian PACE Flag c1970


Image by Marcus Schmöger
Italian PACE Flag c1980
Italian Variant #2


Image by Marcus Schmöger
Italian PACE Flag c1990
Italian Variant #3


Image by Tomislav Todorovic
American PACE Flag c2000
American Variant #1


Image by Tomislav Todorovic
American PACE Flag c2000
American Variant #2


Image by Rick Wyatt
American PACE Flag c2000
American Variant #3

Italian "PACE" Flag
American Variant "PEACE" Flags

This rainbow colored flag is the Italian Peace Flag, which dates from the 1970s. In Italian, the word "pace" means "peace." This foreign flag has in recent years enjoyed some success in the United States as a substitute for the more commonly used and traditional Peace Flag, and is still popular in Italy and other parts of Europe today. The original striped rainbow peace flag, which included a white stripe since removed, first appeared in Italy in 1961, minis the white word "PACE" which was added in the early 1970s.

Because of the Italian PACE flag´s similar appearance it has been confused by the uninformed with the American Gay Rights (LGBT) Rainbow flag. However, upon close examination you will discover that it has more stripes and colors (7 instead of 6) than the Gay Right´s flag. It is basically a case of two similar flags both attempting to mimic the colors of the rainbow, but with the important difference of an extra dark blue stripe added to the Italian Peace flags.

These Italian-style peace flags are now being "localized" in countries other than Italy and the word PACE is being translated to local languages like English, German (FRIEDE) or Turkish (BARIS). In the United States the most common variants (American PEACE variants #1-4) substitute the Italian "PACE" with the inscription "PEACE." A peculiarity of their use in the USA is that they are used not only at the pacifist rallies and protests, but also at LGBT events, having been adopted by their participants, probably because of their similarity with the rainbow LGBT flags. The color shades seem to vary a lot, so note that these images show only the most typical sets of colors.

Image by Tomislav Todorovic
   
Image by Tomislav Todorovic
American PEACE Variant #1
   
American PEACE Variant #2
Image by Tomislav Todorovic
   
Image by Tomislav Todorovic
American PEACE Variant #3
   
American PEACE Variant #4

The most widely used American variant (American PEACE variant #1) has the following color pattern: dark blue, cyan, light blue, green, yellow, orange, and red; with the word "PEACE" in white written over the violet blue and green stripes. Unlike the USA, this variant is rarely seen in Europe.

A variant widely used in Europe, but apparently less so in the USA, has the color pattern: purple, dark blue, light blue, green, yellow, orange, red; word PEACE is inscribed in white over light blue and green (American PEACE Variant #2).

Another American PEACE flag variant (American PEACE Variant #3) that is very popular in Europe, but used less in the USA, has the color pattern: dark blue, light blue, purple, green, yellow, orange, and red; word PEACE is inscribed in white over purple and green.

The variant most rarely seen in the USA (American PEACE Variant #4), a bit more popular in Europe, has the color pattern: dark blue, purple, light blue, green, yellow, orange, and red; word PEACE is inscribed in white over light blue and green.

The American PACE Flag (Variant #1) uses the same color pattern as American PEACE Variant #1 (dark blue, cyan, very light blue, green, yellow, orange, red), but has the white word "PACE" inscribed over very light blue and green instead.

A recent version of this popular flag (American PACE Variant #3) uses a very distinctive typeface, which is centered on the flag and covering three stripes (orange, green, light blue), and is currently being marketed, but has not yet been actually documented in use.


Image from Tomislav Todorovic
Rainbow Children Flag

The New Glory Flag c1970

This interesting variation of the U.S. flag has its red stripes repainted into the seven colors of rainbow. The remaining red stripe retains its original shade, and the dark blue stripe near the bottom is in the same shade as the canton. It was originally popular in the 1970s with the "Rainbow Children" and other similar counter culture groups, but has gained new life as a Gay Rights/Gay Pride flag today. It was originally used by the "Hippy" generation at their Rainbow Gatherings, but the flag, now re-purposed, was used at the Gay Rally in Dallas in 2008, and again in San Francisco during the 2009 Gay Pride Parade.

The original flag was made by the Paramount Flag Company in San Francisco and later by Colors of the Wind, Inc. in Santa Monica. A variant version starts with the purple stripe instead of the red one.


Image by Seth Lefferts
One People/One Planet

Fuller Projection World Flag c1980s

Buckminster Fuller envisioned one people/one planet, the "Spaceship Earth" as he called it. He predicted the worldwide economic collapse of the early 21st Century and hoped it would be the beginning of humanity acting as one race, one people, one planet. In the 1980s Seth Lefferts, who described himself as "one of the people on Spaceship Earth," created this design based on Fuller's vision.

The flag is named after the the Fuller Projection Dymaxion Air-Ocean World Map. This image was first conceived and created by Fuller in 1938 by collapsing the sphere of the Earth onto a flat surface of the ocean and land masses, without splitting or exaggerating their relative sizes. The idea was to show an equal representation of all of humanity.


Image by António Martins
Gay Pride/Rainbow Flag

Image by Tomislav Todorovic
Rainbow Triangle Flag

Image by Tomislav Todorovic
Lambda Rainbow Flag

Gay Rights, Gay Pride Flag

Policy on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) behavior in the United States is a hot political and social issue. Five states and one district (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and District of Columbia) have legalized same-sex marriage. Sexual acts between persons of the same sex have been legal nationwide in the United States since 2003, pursuant to the US Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. Openly lesbian and gay members of the US military is subject to a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, but President Barack Obama indicated during the 2008 presidential campaign, and also during his 2010 State of the Union Address, his desire to end this policy.

Historically, a pink triangle was one of the Nazi concentration camp badges used to identify prisoners who were sent there because of being homosexual. Originally the triangle was intended by the German National Socialist authorities as a badge of shame, but since then a pink triangle has become an international symbol of gay pride and the gay rights, and is now second in popularity only to the rainbow flag. This Rainbow Triangle variant is a "hybrid" of the original Rainbow flag and Pink Triangle. Today, flying a Gay Pride flag openly, like many similar flags, indicates political support for gays to not be persecuted for their beliefs in a free society, and doesn't mean that those flying are necessarily gay themselves.

Rainbow Gay Pride Flags with white letter lambda either centered or placed in the cantons have been used in West Hollywood, Long Beach, San Diego and other areas of Southern California.

This use of the lambda as a gay symbol began when it was adopted in 1970 by the New York Gay Activists Alliance as the symbol of their growing movement of gay liberation. The lambda was subsequently adopted by the International Gay Rights Congress in 1974 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Today, the symbol generally denotes lesbian and gay men´s concerns together because the lambda was not linked to any specific gender or sexual orientation.


Image by Tomislav Todorovic
Gay Pride Flag c1990

Image by Tomislav Todorovic
Gay Pride Flag 2008

The New Glory Flag c1990

A fusion of the "Gay Rights, Gay Pride" Flag and the "Rainbow Children" Flag of the 1970s has resulted in this interesting flag. The New "Old Glory" Rainbow Flag is a more recent development. It basically adds a familiar blue canton of 50 stars to the Gay Pride flag to stress that equal rights for gays and lesbians are crucial in all 50 states. This strange merging of the long haired "Rainbow Children" of the 60s and 70s with the Gays of the 90s is an interesting vexillological development.

It should be noted, however, that although similar in general appearance with each other, the "old" New Glory flag had thirteen multi-colored stripes in a slightly different order, whereas on the "new" flag these thirteen stripes have been replaced with only the six colored stripes of the Gay Movement.

A similar and interesting variant of this flag which replaced the stars with pink triangles first made its appearance in 2008 at the Las Vegas LGBT Equality Rally.

Variants of this basic design continue to appear and can be seen both on the Internet and at LGBT demonstrations.


Image by Tomislav Todorovic
African American Flag

Hammons´ African American Flag 1990

This flag was designed by David Hammons, an African-American artist from New York City. His works were inspired by the civil rights and Black Power movements. He designed the "African-American Flag" in 1990 by recoloring the US national flag in the Garvey colors. The flag is now a part of the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art and a copy is flown daily at the entrance of the Harlem Studio Museum, a New York museum devoted to the art of African-Americans, so his design is no longer just a work of art, but has become a very real and used flag.

The dimensions of the original flag was 56" x 88" (142.2 x 223.5 cm), but a variety of sizes can now be seen on the Web and the flag flown at the Studio Museum seems closer to the default proportions of the US national flag than to the Hammons' original model.


Image by António Martins-Tuválkin
African American Unity Flag

African American Unity Flag 1991

The African American Unity Flag was designed by Vincent Paramore as part of the African American Unity Flag Association (AAUF) grant. The Flag "tells the history of a people who originated from Africa and found themselves in a new land stripped of their religion, culture, language and history. It also memorializes black heroes and heroines known and unknown. The AAUF [flag] Serves to salute our continued progress for total freedom and equality."

A detailed explanation of the flag´s different elements and their meanings can be found on the African American Unity Flag (U.S.) page of the "Flags of the World" website.



New Peace Flag
(Type #1)


U.S. Peace Flag
(Type #2)

New Peace Protest Flags 1990-2010

The Gulf Wars and later the Afghanistan War brought a whole new generation of Peace Protests to life, and with them a whole new set of flags to wave.

   
New Peace Flag (Type #3)
   
New Peace Flag (Type #4)
  • Type #1 features the traditional peace symbol done with 50 five-pointed stars.
  • Type #2 is a marriage of the Ecology Flag and the Peace flag.
  • Type #3 has an enlarged plain white peace symbol on either a blue, black, green background. A variant has a white background with a black symbol.
  • Type #4 turns the Italian Pace Flag upside down, adds a white stripe and white peace sign and the English translation of "Pace," i.e. "Peace," to the mix.

Image by Pete Loeser
Cascadian Flag

The Imaginary State of Cascadia 1994

On a less serious vain, Cascadia is an imagined independent state that would incorporate parts of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Southern Alaska and Northern California. It would somehow be formed if these states and province would ever successfully secede from their respective federal governments.

Designed in 1994 by a Portland University Political Science professor named Alexander Baretich, the flag has appeared on a couple of local microbrews labels with strange names like "Secession IPA" or "Cascadian Dark Ale," and has been seen at occasional sporting events and on college campuses. Most recently it has popped up at Occupy protests held in the Pacific Northwest.


Image by Rick Wyatt
African American Flag House

African American Flag House 1995

This flag was first flown at the African American Flag House in Charleston, South Carolina, on July 3, 1995, just one day before our nation's 4th of July celebration. The African American Flag House foundation hoped the flag would become "a positive and unifying symbol that represents the enormous historical investment of African Americans in the Nation, their defense of the Constitution of the United States, and the promise of opportunity for all. This original flag proclaims African Americans as an important part of the rich mosaic of the United States of America, its protectorates and territories."

A detailed explanation of the flag´s different elements and their meanings can be found on the Afro-American flags (U.S.) page of the "Flags of the World" website.


Image by Antonio Martins
U.S. Unity Movement Flag

American "Hip Hop Nation" Unity Movement Flag 1996

In the summer of 1996, a flag symbolizing the values of the Hip Hop Nation was officially revealed in San Francisco. The Hip Hop Unity Flag is the brain child of community activist James P. Queen, who is the President of Racial Unity Inc. The flag features the colors of our human family: Black, Brown, Red, Yellow and White. Unlike most flags whose stripes are laid horizontally the Hip Hop Generation-Unity Flag's stripes stand vertical/side by side. The significance of this is to show equality because no color is above the other. In short, the flag stands for unity.

On the reverse side of this flag the colors are reversed, i.e. - White, Yellow, Red, Brown, and Black with the word Unity spelled from right to left.


Image by António Martins
One World Flag

One World Flag Movement 1996

The One World Flag was designed by David Bartholomew in 1996. He claims it occurred to him in a dream. It consists of a traditional yin-yang symbol, blue above and green below, representing the planet earth living in harmony, on a background of white, representing peace. The edges are formed of colored bars, red above, yellow on the right, white below, and black on the left, representing the four compass directions.

Bartholomew hoped the One World Flag would become an international symbol of diversity, tolerance, uniqueness, self-esteem, and cooperation. He still heads the One World Flag Movement which partly supports itself by selling the One World flag.


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