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What Is the History of the State Flag of Alabama?

By S. Ashraf
Updated May 17, 2024
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Although Alabama became a state in 1819, the history of its state flag did not begin until 1861 when the decision was made to secede from the Union. In January 1861, at the Secession Convention, the first state flag of Alabama was adopted by the delegates. That flag was only used a few weeks; by March 1861, Alabama instead began using the first of two Confederate flags as its own. In 1865, following the end of the Civil War, the United States flag became Alabama’s official flag. Finally, in 1891, Alabama designed and eventually adopted a unique flag that has flown over the state ever since.

The 1861 state flag of Alabama was designed in Montgomery by a small group of women. On one side of the flag the figure of the Goddess of Liberty was displayed holding a sword in one hand and a smaller flag with only one star in the other hand; the words “Independent Now and Forever” appeared above the figure. The other side had a coiled rattlesnake along with a cotton plant with the words “Touch Me Not” underneath this depiction. This flag is sometimes referred to as the Secession Convention flag or the Republic of Alabama flag. About a month after it was adopted as the state flag of Alabama, a severe storm damaged it, and the flag was removed and never flown again.

Shortly after the first state flag of Alabama was removed, the state opted to use the Confederate National flag. On official occasions, the first national flag or the second national flag of the Confederacy were flown. Once the Civil War was over in 1865, those flags were removed, and Alabama returned to using the United States flag.

Alabama used the United States flag until 1891 when a new design for a state flag was commissioned. Finally, in 1895, a new flag was approved by the legislature, which remains the state flag of Alabama today. The approved design was patterned on the Confederate Battle flag and became Alabama's second official state flag.

Of all of the 50 state flags, Alabama’s is one of the simplest in design. As enacted into law, Alabama’s flag is a crimson St. Andrew’s cross placed against a white field. The colors used in the flag represent courage and purity, while the cross reflects part of the design of the Confederate Battle flag. Since the legislation does not dictate whether the flag must be rectangular or square, it is seen both ways.

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Discussion Comments
By anon319390 — On Feb 12, 2013

@TreeMan: Alabama's flag does say a lot about them. It shows that they want to be predominantly Christian and still yearn for the days of slavery.

By jcraig — On Feb 06, 2012

I have always wondered why exactly states have their own flags. I understand that they want to show themselves as being different from other states, but since America is a collection of states under one union, why is there a need for a state to have a flag in the first place?

The only reason I can think of for having a flag is for the state to separate itself as a people from other states, and if this is the case, their flag needs to depict their state in a unique way as well as show how their people are different and stand out from other Americans.

By Emilski — On Feb 06, 2012

@JimmyT: Although the Alabama state flag is simple, that does not mean it is a terrible flag.

I guess it could be seen as a little un-creative, but most flags are and it is only a rare few that stand out and become icons.

I guess one could make the argument that a flag should be iconic and anything less fails in itself becoming a symbol for people to stand by. But in reality, most people just view it as a flag and I am guaranteeing that some states just have a flag to have a flag and do not put much thought into it.

I am betting that this was the case with Alabama's state flag as they simply saw they did not have a flag so they picked a conservative, safe design to be used. Not every flag looks great, but it is a flag and regardless of how one looks at it, is the symbol of the state whether good or bad, which really may not matter.

By JimmyT — On Feb 05, 2012

@TreeMan: I absolutely agree with you. There are too many states nowadays that have flags that depict absolutely nothing of their state and have little meaning.

Every state flag should have meaning and celebrate their state and be seen as an icon. The United States flag is iconic because everyone knows what it is and the design has a lot of meaning to it despite its simplicity. The state of Alabama, as well as many other states, on the other hand, choose to just select a design that does not have much meaning or history and simply is a design for a flag.

If states want to go with a simple design, they need to model theirs after Alaska's or South Carolina's, which include both history and culture in their state flags. Their symbols are meaningful and speak to the hearts as something that the people of the state can stand by. Alabama needs to take a lesson from this as well as many other states.

By TreeMan — On Feb 05, 2012

I have to be totally honest and say that I am not a huge fan of the Alabama state flag simply because I do not think that it keeps in line with what a state flag should be in that it does not show anything about the state.

I find several other states to be this way and they try to make intricate, or in Alabama's case, simple designs, for their state flags, which most of the time reflect absolutely nothing of the culture or the history of the state.

I guess Alabama's flag is modeled after the Confederate battle flag, but this hardly shows much history or culture in their flag.

I wish their flag was more iconic and not just something that is somewhat standard among state flags.

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