What Is the Meaning of the Black American Flag?

What Is the Meaning of the Black American Flag
What Is the Meaning of the Black American Flag

Not only does the traditional national flag have an important meaning to the citizens of the United States. Throughout the years, plenty of variations of the Old Glory were introduced, and the black version is, perhaps, the most controversial one.

For centuries, black flags were used in battles to signal that no prisoners would be taken. Nowadays, the all-black American flag can be flown by people who are ready to stand for their beliefs, while the black-and-white flag with a thin blue line has been created by the supporters of the Blue Lives Matter movement.

The History of the Black American Flag

A lot of people believe that the all-black American flag is a resistance symbol that originated from the Civil War era. However, the truth is that such flags did not originate during that time.

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After all, it is highly unlikely that the Confederates would fly the American flag. In fact, the chances are high that the Old Glory would be used as a trophy by the Confederates if they ever managed to get their hands on it. Even if the Confederacy did fly all-black flags, it is doubtful that they would have been American flags.

What we do know for sure is that back in the 18th century black flags became one of the main symbols of piracy. But, once again, there is no evidence that the pirates would use the black version of the Stars and Stripes.

In the 1950s, Jasper Johns, an American sculptor, painter, and printmaker, painted an all-black American flag. The image became quite popular; different people across the nation started using the monochromatic flag for various purposes. Funnily enough, Johns himself never wanted to create a powerfully loaded symbol, he was only interested in the formal stylistic structure of the Old Glory.

What Is the Meaning of the Black American Flag?

There is no single answer to this question. The black American flag has been used for years by absolutely different groups of people, so the meaning behind it certainly does vary.

Black flags, in general, mean “no quarter will be given”. These dark flags are typically considered to be the polar opposite of the white ones that were used as a signal of surrender. During battles, black flags meant that no prisoners would be taken.

The Meaning Behind the Black Flag

Some American flags can be entirely black which makes it practically impossible to distinguish the famous stars and stripes, while in black-and-white flags the black replaces only the blue and red elements of the flag.

As the all-black flag doesn’t really have an agreed-on meaning, the people that fly it are the ones who give their own meaning to the black rectangle. This might be one of the ways the flag-wavers show that they are ready to stand for their beliefs and that they will not back down (which is a reference to “no quarter will be given”).

The flag can also act as a promise of a violent revolution, in case the groups that are flying the all-black flags ever feel like their rights are being taken away from them. The use of entirely black flags has skyrocketed since Biden proposed to change the gun safety rules. Some believe that people flying such flags are showing that they are prepared to kill their liberal neighbors. 

Many Trump supporters would display black flags on their houses. In fact, at one point, people could actually buy such ‘accessories’ on Trump’s official website.

The Meaning Behind the “Thin Blue Line” Flag

The Meaning Behind the “Thin Blue Line” Flag
The Meaning Behind the “Thin Blue Line” Flag

The “Thin Blue Line” flag is also black-and-white, but it features, just as the name suggests, a blue stripe. By the way, you might have also seen thin line flags with other colors – each was designed for the jobs with the highest suicide rates.

In recent years, those who choose to fly this flag are showing support for all police officers. Of course, this particular flag has plenty of critics as it can be used by people who are against fighting for racial justice. The “Thin Blue Line” flag might have also been created in response to the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In fact, the majority of people who fly the flag with the blue stripe are supporters of the Blue Lives Matter movement. It is a countermovement in the US that honors the actions of law enforcement. The supporters of the movement also believe that the officers deserve more recognition for their hard and dangerous work.

This variation of the flag has become quite popular over recent years. It is quite common for the “Thin Blue Line” to be displayed in front of homes in the states where the Republican party dominates.

The Meaning Behind the Black American Flag

In some cases, when people mention the Black American Flag they are not talking about the traditional Old Glory painted in black. For over a century, Black Americans have been trying to come up with a single visual representation to symbolize their experience in the US

In 2003, the Black American Flag was proposed. It features a black base with a white flag on it. The latter also has a bright white star in the upper left corner – the North Star that navigated the enslaved ancestors of the black people of America out of slavery and that can guide the people to a brighter future.

The Black identity is constantly changing and new flags have been proposed in recent years. However, you might still come across this particular variation.

Final Thoughts

The truth is that displaying the black American flag on the house or waving it doesn’t make the person look tough. Instead, it shows, in a lot of cases, that the person has become afraid of other people with different political beliefs, and that doesn’t really go well with the spirit of American pluralism. 

At the same time, you live in a free country and you can fly whatever flag you want as long as it means something important to you. So, the choice is yours. 

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Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!