Red, Black, and Green … Setting the Record Straight
By Sharon Sanders Brooks

Recently the U.S. Postal Service issued the KWANZAA stamp in recognition of the festival created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State UniversityLong Beach. The colorful KWANZAA stamp depicts a family of African descent and symbols associated with the celebration.

Also included in the stamp is a broad three-striped "Black, Red, and Green" flag. Since the KWANZAA stamps purports to symbolize the pride and heritage of African Americans, postal customers might assume the flag represents the unofficially dubbed "Black Pride Flag."

However, the flag Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.) introduced at the First International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World held in August 1920 in New York City was "RED, BLACK, AND GREEN."

Over 25,000 people packed the opening session of the convention that was held at Madison Square Garden. Delegates came from all over the world. At the flag’s introduction Garvey stated each color of the flag had a specific meaning: red"the color of the blood which men must shed for their redemption and liberty"; black"the color of the noble and distinguished race to which we belong"; and green"the luxuriant vegetation of our Motherland."

During the Black Power Movement of the 1960’s the Red, Black, and Green flag made a comeback and appeared frequently as a symbol of pride. Many persons not knowing the history of the flag mistakenly thought the flag had been created in the 1960’s. Some might say the colors of a flag and/or even the existence of a specific flag for a race of people is a non-issue.

Author Tony Martin states in Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the U.N.I.A.: "the lack of an African symbol of nationhood seems to have been the cause for crude derision on the part of whites and a source of sensitivity on the part of Afro-Americans. White derision over the deficiency was summed up in a popular American song, "Every Race Has a Flag But the ‘Coon’." This song spurred Garvey to create the RED, BLACK, AND GREEN flag.

Reportedly Dr. Maulana Karenga served as a consultant to the U.S. Postal Service for the KWANZAA stamp and Synthia Saint James, an African-American, was the artist. As African-Americans our history as told by others has been one of omission and distortion, must we now as African-Americans also add to the historical confusion with this KWANZAA stamp!!

Sharon Sanders Brooks,
President, Basic Black Historical Consulting Service
Kansas City, Missouri