Two different sets of three colours are referred to as the Pan-African colours: the green, gold, and red first used in the flag of Ethiopia and Eritrea before the countries broke apart;(Ghana was the first country to adopt the pan-African colours) and the red, black, and green adopted by the American-based Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA). As such, they are used in flags and other emblems to represent Pan-Africanism, African identity, or blacks as a race, though some flags (e.g., that of Lithuania) use these colours for unrelated reasons. The Pan-African colours are also a symbol of the Rastafari movement, and citizens of the U.S. state of Hawaii, influenced by reggae music, use the colours as a symbol of regional pride, despite having a very small black population.
The Ethiopian colours
Green, gold, and red are now found on the national flags of many African nations. They originate in Ethiopia; from where they also have relevance for the Rastafari movement. They were used on many ancient African flags, most notably in the bloom on the flag of Granada, the Moorish state in Spain. The colours appear most prominently on the 1798 flag of Ethiopia, with the green at the bottom; however, they were accidentally flown upside-down on a state ceremony and the tradition was adopted by the Ethiopian government and by several African states, as well as by Pan-Africanist organisations around the world. It is now common to see these flags with green on top (or in front) of gold, and red at the bottom (or at the trailing edge) of the flag,
Except for a brief period of occupation by Italy under the Fascists, Ethiopia remained outside European control during the colonial era, and was therefore admired by many newly-independent African states. The adoption of the Ethiopian national colours was a consequence of this. The first Afrikan state to adopt a red, gold and green flag upon independence was Ghana in 1957.
The UNIA colours
The UNIA constitution defines red, black, and green as the Pan-African colours: "red representing the noble blood that unites all people of African ancestry, the colour black for the people, green for the rich land of Africa." The UNIA flag was designated the official colours of the African Race by the UNIA at its convention in Madison Square Garden on August 13, 1920 in New York City. Alternatively, it was explained by journalist Charles Mowbray White that Marcus Garvey proposed the colours for the following reasons: "Garvey said red because of sympathy for the 'Reds of the world', and the Green their sympathy for the Irish in their fight for freedom, and the Black- [for] the Negro."
Current flags with the colours
The following are countries that combine three or four of red, black, green, and yellow in their flags as representative of their African identity.
Autonomous region / Pending independence
Republic of Libya (disputed)
Former flags with the colours
Only countries whose flags currently do not use Pan-African colours are included in this gallery.
- Garvey Papers Vol. 2, p. 603.
- Znamierowski, Alfred (2001). The World Encyclopedia of Flags. London: Anness Publishing Ltd.