Georgia State Flag: History, Design, Trivia
DATE FIRST USED
Georgia State Flag
Georgian Stars and Bars
Equal-sized horizontal red-white-red stripes with a dark blue square canton that extends to the bottom of the white stripe. The state coat of arms in golden yellow surrounded by a ring of 13 five-pointed stars sits in the blue area.
Symbols: Thirteen white five-pointed stars and the state emblem. The 13 stars stand for the country's original 13 colonies and demonstrate that Georgia was one. The coat of arms is an arch labeled "Constitution," supported by three pillars labeled "Wisdom," "Justice," and "Moderation," three virtues that uphold the state's constitution. An American revolutionary soldier guards the pillars.
Colors: Red, white, blue, and gold. Red, white, and blue are borrowed from the Confederate flag. Gold is the state seal's standard color.
Though Georgia was the fourth state to officially join the Union, it had no state flag until much later. Nevertheless, Georgia was among the first to raise a secession flag after Abraham Lincoln became president. This was white with a coiled rattlesnake in the middle and the words "Our Motto, Southern Rights, Equality of the States, Don't Tread on Me" below. As the wish to secede became more widespread, other unofficial secession flags began to appear all over the state. The most documented was white with a large red five-pointed star in the center.
During the civil war, Georgia flew the Confederate States of America flag. The "Stars and Bars," the first national flag of the Confederacy, flew between 1861 and 1863. It had red-white-red horizontal stripes, and like the modern Georgia flag, a square blue canton that reached to the bottom of the white stripe. Within the canton was a ring of seven white five-pointed stars, one for each secessionist state. Later, a plain white flag with the Confederate battle flag in the canton became the confederate states' banner. The Confederate battle flag was square and red, with a blue diagonal cross with white fimbriations containing 13 white five-pointed stars. In March 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis approved a third design for the Confederate flag. This new flag was the same but had a wide red vertical band at the fly.
After the war, there was still no official state flag for some years. State military units used a dark blue flag with the state arms in the center, and this stood in for a state flag when needed. Governor Alfred Colquitt approved the first official state flag in October 1879. It was modeled on the first Confederate flag, but the blue canton became a blue vertical stripe at the hoist and the flag had no stars. In 1902 the Georgia General Assembly stipulated that Georgia's coat of arms be placed in the blue stripe. Though legal, it is not clear whether this exact design was ever used. A version with the arms on a fancy gold-rimmed white shield did come into use a bit later. This flag also had the word "Georgia" in gold on a red ribbon below the arms. After 1920, the entire state seal in white was centered on the blue area, although there's no official record of exactly when or why this change occurred.
In 1956 the flag was changed again. This time, the red-white-red stripes were replaced with the confederate battle flag. The blue bar and seal remained the same. The strong reference to the Confederacy caused some controversy. Though citizens' issues with the flag were publicized starting in the very late 1960s and bills to change the flag were introduced in the 1980s and 1990s, no change was made. In 2001 an Atlanta architect, Cecil Alexander, designed a different flag that was finally accepted. The blue flag had a large state seal in gold surrounded by 13 small white stars. A ribbon below it contained the first U.S. flag, three state flags (including the controversial 1956 flag), and the current U.S. flag. The words "In God We Trust" were centered below. Though this flag passed into law easily, the current flag, a variation of the Confederate stars and bars, replaced it in 2003.
State law stipulates that both public and private schools in Georgia must display the flag on "appropriate occasions". It should also appear at patriotic meetings and citizens are asked to take the pledge of allegiance in this case. Superior and state courts, other state departments and agencies, counties, and municipal authorities all receive flags from the Georgia Secretary of State's office free of charge.
LEGENDS, CONTROVERSIES, AND TRIVIA
Though widely used and accepted, all the "state flags" flying in Georgia from 1902 to 1955 were unofficial. None of them complied with 1902 specifications, and no new flag laws were defined.
There is no clear record of the debate surrounding changing the Georgia state flag to include the Confederate battle flag in 1956. However, it was and is widely believed that the change was made as a protest against the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 ruling against school segregation. Those who dispute this generally point out that the flag was only changed from one Confederate flag to another, and argue that the point of the change was to raise awareness of the need to preserve Civil War memorabilia. But the fact remains that many Americans view the Confederate flag as a racist emblem. The three-stripe flag, on the other hand, is not widely remembered outside the Deep South.
-World Trade Press