World Facts

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

The national flag of Jamaica was adopted in 1962.

The Flag of Jamaica

The flag of Jamaica is tricolored and consists of a gold-colored cross shape running diagonally from corner to corner. This cross creates 4 triangular areas on the flag. The triangles above and below the cross are dark green in color, while the triangles to the left and right of the cross are black. The flag of Jamaica is sometimes referred to as “The Cross” or as the “Black, Green, and Gold” because of its colors. It was officially adopted on August 6, 1962, when Jamaica gained its independence from the United Kingdom. The flag's design was selected through a public nationwide competition. In its original design, the bands of the flag were placed in a horizontal position, but the government soon realized the design was nearly identical to the flag of Tanganyika. The flag has a height to width ratio of 1:2.

Symbolism of the Flag of Jamaica

The flag of Jamaica is unique compared to other flags around the world in that it is the only one that does not contain one of the following colors: red, white, or blue. Over time, the meaning behind the colors of Jamaica's flag has changed. After independence in 1962, government officials claimed the black color stood for the difficulties faced by the country, the green represented the island itself, and the gold color symbolized the bright sun that shines over the land. Today, however, the colors have taken on slightly different meanings. Beginning in 1996, the black color has been said to represent the people of the land, particularly their strength and resilience against hardships. The green color represents the abundance of flora found throughout the island, and the gold color symbolizes the riches found within Jamaica.

Variations of the Flag

As a former colony of the United Kingdom, Jamaica has had a number of flags throughout history. The first of these was used between 1875 and 1906. It had a blue background with a small flag of the United Kingdom in the upper left corner. In the middle of the right side, a white circle was situated with the image of a crocodile on top of a red cross. The cross was lined with 5 pineapples and circled by a gold-colored hoop. In other variations, the only part of the design that changed was the image in the white circle. Between 1906 and 1957, the image was of the same crocodile and pineapple-lined cross, but in a shield shape, and on either side stood an indigenous woman and an indigenous man. Between 1957 and 1962, the image changed only slightly, by adding a golden stand upon which stood the crocodile.

Today, a few other flags are used by various offices of the government. The Coast Guard of Jamaica, for example, flies a white flag with a red cross in its center. This cross creates 4 quadrants and in the top left quadrant is a smaller version of the Jamaican flag. The government sometimes uses a flag that is similar to the colonial design. Known as the Blue Ensign, this flag has a bright blue background with a small Jamaican flag in the top left corner.

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