The Georgia State Flag commemorates the national flag of the Confederacy, the “Stars and Bars”. Adopted on May 8, 2003, the Georgia flag became the state’s third flag in twenty-seven months- a national record. Georgia also leads the nation in the number and variety of different flags. From 1956 to 2001, Georgia’s state flag featured the prominent Confederate Battle Flag. This aroused great deal of controversy, particularly prior to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. The current flag displays two red stripes separated by a single white stripe. A blue canton containing a ring of 13 white stars encompasses the state’s coat of arms in gold. The arch in the coat of arms symbolizes the state’s constitution and is protected by an armed figure dressed in the attire of the American Revolutionary War. The pillars represent the three branches of government. The Georgia Seal includes the words of the state motto: “Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation.”
Brief History of the Georgia Flag
On February 19, 2003, Georgia officially adopted its current flag. Three red-white-red stripes are included on the flag, with a blue canton bearing a ring of 13 white stars enclosing the state's gold coat of arms.
The state's constitution is represented by the arch on the coat of arms, while the three pillars stand in for the three branches of government. A masculine figure wearing colonial garb from the American Revolutionary War stands guard over the pillars, which are wrapped in the phrases of the state motto, "Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation." A sword is drawn within the arms to symbolize the defense of the state's constitution, and below these elements is another motto, In God We Trust. As one of the original Thirteen Colonies, Georgia is symbolized by the ring of stars that surrounds the state's coat of arms.
The First National Flag of the Confederacy, sometimes known as the Stars and Bars, served as the inspiration for the design. The Georgia flag is still one of the few state flags that makes mention of the Confederacy even after Mississippi voters decided to modify their flag's design in 2020. There are three state flags in the United States that have the phrase "In God We Trust," the other two being those of Florida and Mississippi.
Extended History of the Georgia Flag
According to the Georgia Code of 1861, militia regiments and battalions that were assigned to duty outside of Georgia were to be given regimental colors that "carry the arms of the State." The name of the unit was to be engraved on the regimental colors. The flag's actual color was not mentioned. However, a state flag that has survived and is in the American Civil War Museum's collection in Richmond displays the arms on a crimson background.
History of the First Flag (1879–1956)
Herman H. Perry, a state senator from Georgia, proposed the 1879 flag, which was accepted as a tribute to Confederate troops who died in the American Civil War. Perry, a former colonel in the Confederate army during the conflict, probably took inspiration for his design from the Stars and Bars, or First National Flag of the Confederacy. The charge on the vertical blue band at the hoist was added to and adjusted over time, causing changes to the flag. The original 1879 design had a single, solid blue ring and no further insignia.
The Georgia Senate's 2000 research report states that researchers were not aware of any surviving flags depicting the coat of arms directly on the blue band, indicating that no such flag was ever actually produced. The state's coat of arms was added to the blue band in a 1902 amendment to the state militia laws. Instead, the coat of arms started to appear no later than 1904 on a white shield, maybe with a gold outline. In this variation, a red ribbon bearing the name "GEORGIA" was also put beneath the shield. The Senate researchers uncovered instances of this modified version.
The state seal, which had been established in 1799, was incorporated by some flag producers into the coat of arms. The United States Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, and that year was chosen by the General Assembly in 1914 as the new reference year.
The state seal eventually started to take the role of the coat of arms. According to the Senate investigation, this occurred in the 1910s or 1920s and may have been related to the state seal's date modification in 1914 and the requirement to adapt newly produced flags to that alteration. The Georgia Official Register, which featured a color version of the seal, was the first official state publication to do so in 1927, according to the study. Various seal variations were also used on flags throughout this time, up until a new drawing was mandated in the 1950s.
History of the Second Flag (1956-2001)
John Sammons Bell, who later served as a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, was the chairman of the State Democratic Party and counsel for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia in early 1955. Bell proposed a new state flag for Georgia that would feature the Confederate Battle Flag. State senators Willis Harden and Jefferson Lee Davis presented Senate Bill 98, which would have changed the state flag, during the 1956 session of the General Assembly. The legislation took effect on July 1st, 1956, after being signed into law on February 13th.
The state flag typically manufactured differs slightly from the new flag used at the 1956 signing ceremony. Only the center of the central star points straight up in the 1956 version, which has larger stars. Additionally, a different state seal was used on the first prints of the 1956 flag. (On these early specimens, the state seal was the Georgia State Seal from 1920. All Georgia State Flags made after 1920 bear this seal.) A newly redesigned state seal started to appear on state government documents in the summer of 1954. The new seal was applied to Georgia's official state flags by the decade's end.
According to a 2000 research report by the Georgia Senate, the 1956 flag was established during a time when the Georgia General Assembly "was totally devoted to drafting legislation that would sustain segregation and racial supremacy." The 1956 flag bill was introduced and passed by the Georgia legislature, but there aren't many written records of what was said during that time. Additionally, Georgia law doesn't require a statement of legislative intent when a bill is introduced. However, former U.S. congressman James Mackay, one of the 32 House members who opposed the change, later said, "There was only one reason for putting the flag on there: like the gun rack in the back of a pickup truck, it telegraphs a message." In addition, the 2000 assessment found that the state flag was changed in 1956 during "a climate of retaining segregation and hostility" toward the American government's decisions on integration. The new flag was perceived as a "gesture of defiance against the federal government's first execution of Brown v. Board of Education (1954)".
According to the 2000 report, those who had backed the modification to the flag in the 1950s claimed that it was done to "celebrate and pay honor to the Confederate veterans of the Civil War" or "was made in preparation for the Civil War centenary, which was five years away." Bell, who created the 1956 flag and backed its adoption in the 1950s to defend the state's "institutions," which included segregation at the time, later claimed that he did so to honor Confederate veterans. The 2000 report claims that the allegations that the flag was purportedly changed in 1956 to honor Confederate soldiers were made much later after the flag had already been adopted, in an effort by the change's proponents to retract earlier support for segregation at a time when it was no longer fashionable. It claims that the "argument that the flag was changed in 1956 in preparation for the approaching Civil War centennial appears to be a retrospective or after-the-fact argument" and that "no one in 1956, including the flag’s sponsors, claimed that the change was in anticipation of the coming anniversary".
Several parties, including Confederate historical organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy, opposed changing the flag at the time (UDC). Incorporating the Confederate battle flag into the design, according to those opposed to a change in the flag, would be too sectionalist, ineffective, and polarizing. They asserted that people should display patriotism for the United States rather than the long-defunct Confederacy, citing the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, which declares that the U.S. is "one nation... indivisible." The 1920 flag, according to opponents of the modification, was perfectly acceptable, and the public was happy with it. Others objected to changing the flag since it would be more expensive for people to buy a new flag to replace the old one.
The 2000 Georgia Senate Report and other critics have seen the adoption of the 1956 flag as a sign of racist protest, pointing to legislation passed in 1956 that rejected Brown v. Board of Education and pro-segregationist remarks made by the then-Governor Marvin Griffin, such as "The rest of the nation is looking to Georgia for the lead in segregation." There is no written record of what was said in Senate and House sessions on the justification for the flag change, despite the fact that members publicly backed segregation.
In particular, in the years leading up to the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, political demand for a change in the official state flag mounted. The Georgia flag was a key concern for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and some business executives in Georgia believed that negative opinions of the flag were hurting the state's economy. Governor Zell Miller declared his intention to have the Confederate feature removed in 1992, but the state legislature resisted passing any legislation altering the flag. After the legislative session in 1993, the issue was abandoned. Many people in Atlanta and some Georgia officials chose to fly the pre-1956 flag instead of flying the 1956 flag.
History of the Third Flag (2001-2003)
In 2001, Roy Barnes, who succeeded Miller as governor, acted quickly to get a new state flag approved by the Georgia General Assembly in response to growing calls for one. Cecil Alexander, an architect, created his new flag, which aimed to strike a balance by incorporating miniature reproductions of several (but not all) of Georgia's prior flags, including the divisive 1956 banner, beneath the words "Georgia's History." These flags include the current fifty-star U.S. flag, the first Georgia flag (before 1879), the Georgia flag flown from 1920 to 1956, the preceding state flag flown from 1956 to 2001, and the thirteen-star "Betsy Ross" design U.S. flag.
The revised Georgia flag was rated the worst in North America in a 2001 assessment on state and provincial flags by the North American Vexillological Association. According to the group, the flag "violates every rule of excellent flag design." Trenton, Georgia, adopted a modified version as its official city flag in protest of the state flag from 1956 being altered in 2001.
The new flag, known as the "Barnes rag," was widely opposed. It resulted in his defeat for reelection two years later, according to Barnes himself; the flag was a key issue in the election.
History of the Fourth Flag (2003-Present)
Sonny Perdue ran for governor of Georgia in 2002, and part of his program included calling for a state vote that would let Georgians choose their own flag. In 2003, he gave the Georgia legislature permission to create a new flag.
The First National Flag of the Confederacy, the Stars, and Bars, which was less well-known than the Confederate battle flag, is the "compromise flag" that the Georgia General Assembly has proposed. It has a design based on the state's coat of arms and the words "In God We Trust" placed inside the circle of stars. The bill was enacted on February 19, 2003, by Perdue.
In addition, a referendum on which of the two most recent flags—the ones from 2001 and 2003—should be used as the state flag was permitted by the 2003 flag legislation; the 1956 flag was not one of the choices. The referendum was held on March 2, 2004, the day of the state's presidential primary. The pre-2001 design would have been placed to a vote if the 2003 flag had been rejected. In the referendum, 73.1% of voters chose the 2003 design.
Interesting Facts About the Georgia Flag
On May 8, 2003, the state of Georgia adopted its present flag. The flag has three red-white-red stripes, a blue canton with a ring of 13 white stars encircling the state's gold coat of arms, and three red-white-red stripes. The legislative, executive, and judicial departments of government are represented by the three pillars and an arch in the state's coat of arms, respectively. A masculine figure wearing colonial garb from the American Revolutionary War stands guard over the pillars, which are wrapped in the phrases of the state motto, "Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation." The sword drawn within the arms stands for the defense of the state's constitution.
Underneath these components is a second motto, In God We Trust, which serves as the "foundation" of the state. Georgia's status as one of the original Thirteen Colonies is symbolized by the ring of stars that surrounds the state's coat of arms. The Confederacy's first national flag, known as the "Stars and Bars," served as the inspiration for the design concept.
FAQ About the Georgia State
Is Georgia’s flag a Confederate flag?
The First National Flag of the Confederacy, sometimes known as the Stars and Bars, served as the inspiration for the design. The Georgia flag is still one of the few state flags that makes mention of the Confederacy even after Mississippi voters decided to modify their flag's design in 2020.
What is Georgia Known for?
Georgia is well-known for many things, including its peaches, its warm southern hospitality, and the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. and other highly prominent persons were born there.
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