The adopted flag of the U.S. state of Georgia is the newest state flag in the United States and has a very interesting story behind its development. Adopted just over eight years ago, on May 8, 2003, the flag is based off of the design of the Confederate States of America’s first national banner.
The current flag of Georgia, like the U.S. flag, is rectangular and includes a blue field in the upper left corner. The blue field includes the state of Georgia’s coat of arms and thirteen white stars. The coat of arms consists of three pillars, which represent the three branches of state and federal government: executive, legislative, and judicial. An American soldier with a drawn sword, dressed in a Revolutionary War uniform, stands between the pillars, symbolizing the state’s courage to defend the constitution.
Two phrases also appear in the blue field. “Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation,” Georgia’s state motto, appear on a banner around the pillars. “In God We Trust,” is written below the seal, but these words are not actually part of the official Georgia seal. The thirteen stars around the seal signify Georgia’s inclusion in the original thirteen U.S. colonies.
The rest of the flag consists of three horizontal stripes: the top and bottom stripes are red and the middle stripe is white.
Controversy over the state of Georgia’s previous flag, which was used from 1956 until 2001, ultimately led to the flag’s repeal and the design of a new flag. The flag adopted in 1956 prominently featured the Southern Cross, a prominent symbol of the Confederate States of America. Although proponents of the flag claimed that the Georgia state flag was designed to commemorate the Civil War Centennial, others took offense. The flag was adopted at the height of the American Civil Rights Movement, and white supremacy groups were using the Confederate flag as a symbol of racial protest.
Although pressure to adopt a new state flag increased throughout the second half of the twentieth century—especially before the 1996 Olympic Games, which were held in Atlanta—the flag was not replaced until 2001. In that year, the state legislature adopted a replacement flag that featured Georgia’s state seal above smaller versions of Georgia’s previous flag. The current flag of Georgia was adopted in 2003.