World Facts

What Do the Colors and Symbols of the Flag of Haiti Mean?

Haiti's national flag is bicolored with the national coat of arms in the center.

The flag of Haiti consists of two different colored horizontal bands, with the national coat of arms at the center. The top band is bright blue in color, while the bottom band is red. The coat of arms of Haiti is made up of two yellowish-gold colored cannons faced in opposite directions on top of a green hill. A drum with two axes is located between the cannons and six flags are located behind the cannons (3 on each side). Running down the center of this image is a palm tree wearing a hat, known as the Liberty Cap. A white banner sits at the bottom of the hill with the Latin phrase meaning “Strength in Unity.” The flag of Haiti was officially adopted on February 26, 1986, when the country began its transition to democracy. However, the flag's design was previously used from 1859 until 1964 under the First Haitian Republic.

Symbolism of the Flag of Haiti

Residents of Haiti celebrate National Flag Day on May 18th of every year, which is a day for Haitians to celebrate the original creation of the flag. The original design is believed to have been created by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who led the Haitian revolution. Oral histories suggests that the revolutionary figure ripped apart the French flag, removing and discarding its white center band. Dessalines gave the remaining blue and red pieces to his goddaughter, Catherine Flon, so that she could sew them together. Maintaining this story and two of the three colors of the French flag symbolizes the history of Haiti and its ability to achieve independence. Some accounts suggest that the blue and red colors are meant to represent the ethnicities living in this country. Additionally, the coat of arms is said to represent independence and freedom, which are symbolized by the palm tree at its center and the weapons on the hill.

Variations of the Flag

A variation of the current flag of Haiti lacks the center image of the coat of arms. This simple bi-color flag is used as a civil flag, which means it is flown by civilians and private businesses. The variation also serves as the national ensign, which means it is flown on a number of non-governmental water vessels.

From 1625 until 1804, prior to Haiti's independence from France, its flag was white with the image of the French crown over a blue shield that held three fleur-de-lis. After the revolution, Haiti adopted a vertical bi-color of black and red that was only used for two years. This flag was followed by the flag of the State of Haiti, from 1806 until 1811, but substituted the black color for dark blue. As a kingdom, Haiti reverted back to the black and red bicolor flag, but changed the positions of the colors. From 1811 until 1814, the flag had a golden image of two lions holding a shield with a bird rising from flames. In 1814 this center image was changed to a blue disc with a crown on top. The colors of the current flag were first adopted in 1848, although its center image included two lions holding a shield with a bird, as well as the royal palm tree used today.

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