What is the African American Heritage Flag or, to use the correct term, the Black American Heritage Flag? Many people are discovering this symbol of the African-American community for the first time. We take a closer look at the origin of this flag, as well as what it represents.
What are the origins of the African American Heritage Flag?
To use its correct term, the Black American Heritage Flag was designed by Melvin Charles and Gleason T Jackson in 1967 during the pivotal civil rights movement in the US. The flag is also known as the African American Heritage Flag.
Melvin Charles has said about the inspiration for the flag: “It was in both our minds for a long time.”
Even as a child of three years old Charles would watch the parades go by in the streets where he lived. He saw many other flags represented, the American flag, the Italian flag, but he didn’t feel there was one to represent his community.
As neighbours, Charles and Gleason started talking about something they could do to make progress for the black community, and the Black American Heritage Flag was born.
They wanted to spread the word about their new symbol for the African-American community. In 1967 they went down to City Hall to unfurl and present the flag to the community.
Although they faced some opposition, the flag was put up on 5 March at the City Hall in Newark, New Jersey.
Charles has said looking back on creating the flag: “I’m proud of it every time it see it unfurled. I’m proud of it every time I speak about it”.
What does the flag represent?
The Black American Heritage Flag is a symbol that represents the pride, history and accomplishments of the African-American community.
The flag contains diagonal stripes of red and black, with a gold wreath circling a gold blunted sword.
According to Melvin Charles, the blunted sword represents pride while the gold wreath represents peace, prosperity and everlasting life.
Red is for the blood that has been shed by the community for freedom, justice and human dignity, while black represents the pride in their skin colour and the black community.
What is the African-American language?
The African-American language is also known as Ebonics, or African American Vernacular. It was formerly known as Black English Vernacular.
This dialect was thought to have originated due to contact between “non-standard varieties of colonial English and African languages”.
However, there is also the African-American tut language, also known as Tutnese or Double Dutch. It was originally created by the enslaved African-American community in the 18th century.
It was used as a wordplay game to educate while concealing exactly what was being said. This was during a time when literacy and education for the enslaved population was forbidden.
Tut is now a part of the rich history of the African-American community and is often taught in families to connect to their ancestry.