Flag of North Carolina

The flag of the State of North Carolina was adopted in 1885. North Carolina was the 12th state to join the United States of America: it gained statehood in 1789.  The flag is rectangular and uses the same colors as the flag of the United States—red, white, and blue—but also includes a golden color to highlight its lettering.

The left side of the flag, closest to the hoist, is blue with a white star in the center. The letter “N” appears to the left of the star, and the letter “C” appears to the right. The date May 20, 1775 appears on golden ribbon above the star, and the date April 12, 1776 appears on another golden ribbon below the star.  To the right of the blue portion of the flag are two equally divided horizontal fields: the top field is red and the bottom is white.

The two dates on the North Carolina flag are important dates in the United States’ battle for independence and are also dates that recognize North Carolina as an important state in the revolutionary movement.  May 20, 1775 recognizes the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, which was the first declaration of independence made in the Thirteen Colonies. The citizens of Mecklenburg County signed the declaration on May 20, 1775 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

April 12, 1776 commemorates the Halifax Resolves, which was adopted by the Fourth Provincial Congress of the Province of North Carolina. Like the Mecklenburg Declaration, the Halifax Resolves was named for the town where the document was discussed. The Halifax Resolves motivated North Carolina’s leaders, including Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, and John Penn, to join the other United States colonies and declare independence from Britain.

When North Carolina seceded from the Union on May 20, 1861—just six years after the flag’s adoption—the date of the Halifax Resolves was replaced with North Carolina’s secession date. The blue field on the left was changed to red and included a larger star and the red field on the right side of the flag was changed to blue. The official North Carolina flag was restored after the Civil War.

Flag of Mississippi

The Flag of Mississippi was officially adopted in 1894 following the state’s appointment of a committee to design an appropriate state flag. The flag features a square version of the Confederate Battle Flag in the upper left corner, a red background that includes a blue southern cross and thirteen white stars inside the cross.  The rest of the flag consists of three large horizontal stripes, one each in blue, white, and red.  Mississippi is the only state in the Union that still incorporates the Confederate flag into their state flag.

The meaning of the colors and stars on the Mississippi state flag are not difficult to interpret.  The thirteen stars in the Confederate flag symbolize the thirteen original colonies of the United States.  The red, white, and blue colors are also in accordance with the official colors of the United States.  The use of the Confederate flag in the Mississippi state flag is controversial, however.  Those who support the Confederate flag argue that it is a symbol of southern heritage that is distinctively unique from the Northern traditions.  To others, due to its use in the Civil War, by Neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, the Confederate flag is viewed as racist and anti-Union.  For these reasons, most Southern states, schools, and universities that at one time included the Confederate flag in their own state flags or that flew the Confederate flag no longer follow this tradition.

In 1993, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi regarding the Confederate flag’s inclusion in the state’s flag.  After reviewing the case, the Mississippi Supreme Court overruled the NAACP, and in 2000, Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove made the current state flag official.  Although controversy continued to brew over the flag’s use, in 2001, Mississippi residents voted to keep the Confederate flag on their state flag.

Flag of Louisiana

The flag of the State of Louisiana was originally adopted in 1912 and revised in 2006. This rectangular flag features a blue background with a “pelican in her piety” in the center: a mother pelican feeding three baby pelicans in their nest.  The mother pelican has three small drops of blood on her chest and is using the blood to feed her children.  This symbol is also used on the Louisiana state seal.  The state motto is included on a white ribbon below the pelican of piety and reads: “Union, Justice, and Confidence.”

The drops of blood on the pelican of piety on the Louisiana state flag might seem disturbing, and it is not surprising that their inclusion on the flag was inconsistent throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  It wasn’t until an eighth grade student at Vanderbilt Catholic High School in Houma, Louisiana brought the issue to the attention of the Louisiana State Legislature that it became a requirement that all versions of the Louisiana seal and flag include the three drops of blood on the pelican’s breast.

The pelican of piety has been a Christian symbol of charity since the Middle Ages.  Medieval Europeans thought that pelicans were particularly caring for their babies. Because of the way the pelican presses its bill into its chest when feeding, it was thought that a pelican mother would injure herself to feed her young her own blood in the absence of available food.  Other legends about pelicans hold that the pelican mother kills its young, only to resurrect the babies with her own blood, symbolic of the Passion of the Christ. Both versions of the pelican mother support self-sacrifice and generosity in the Christian faith.  In addition to its use on the Louisiana state flag and seal, the pelican image is featured in Great Britain on the emblems of the Corpus Christi College in both Cambridge and Oxford.