Red, Black and Green: The African Liberation Flag and the Meaning Behind It

5 min readSep 24, 2016

The Red, Black and Green stripes of the African Liberation Flag were first drawn back in the early 1920s with Marcus Garvey’s support, originally in response to a racist and derogatory song. Over the next few decades, the Red, Black and Green (RBG) flag garnered support from different areas and causes around the world, within and across different African-American and other African diaspora communities.

In addition to African liberation, the RBG flag now represents many things for the African race, including the promotion of Pan-Africanism. Pan-Africanism constitutes the combination of all the elements of political and intellectual thought among the African diaspora over the last two centuries. Ideology, politics, organizations, and culture have all played a role among the changing definitions of what Pan-Africanism is. However, Pan-Africanism actually represents a wide range of political leanings and opinions which aren’t limited by political concerns within a nation or between nations.

Pan-Africanism is essentially a belief in African people (both part of the diaspora and the African people still on the continent of Africa) that we share not only a history, as well as, a destiny. Pan-Africanism is a feeling of interconnected histories, our present times and the future that lies ahead. Pan-Africanism, also, represents a desire to promote the African culture and self-actualization of African communities everywhere.

So what do the colors represent?

The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL), credited with developing the RBG flag, say that the red stripe represents blood, “the blood that unites all people of black ancestry, and [which was] shed for liberation.” The black on the flag represents “the people whose existence as a nation, though not a nation-state” while the green represents the land and the “abundant natural wealth of Africa.” The simple three-part African Liberation Flag is often modified by placing another image over the top of it — the official national flags of Biafra, Malawi, Kenya and Libya all share the three color stripes of red, black and green. Malawi even changed their flag in 2010 so that the order of colors matched the RBG flag. However, that change was…


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