Support Us Button Widget

History of the North Carolina flag

Most of us probably don’t have our state flags memorized, but it’s worth studying up: Our flag’s design reflects centuries of history.

The North Carolina flag

Adopted in 1885, our flag’s history is much older.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Table of Contents

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a flag is a whole textbook.

Our state flag is a record of North Carolina history that experts read like a secret code. Every part carries some meaning, from hoist to fly end.

The colors

This one should be easy: the North Carolina flag shares its colors with the US flag, and their meanings are identical:

  • Red for courage
  • White for purity and liberty
  • Blue for loyalty

State flag legislation specifies that the lettering be “in gilt,” meaning painted with gold leaf, not just dyed yellow.

The hoist

At the hoist end — that is, the end near the flagstaff — a white star between the “N” and “C” symbolizes North Carolina as one of the original 13 colonies. In fact, an early version of the North Carolina flag bore the words “surgit astrum,” Latin for “rising star” (or so Google Translate tells us).

The dates

Above and below the “N.C.” are two dates:

  • May 20, 1775, the supposed date of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, potentially the nation’s first declaration of independence from England. According to the North Carolina Historical Flag Commission, the date’s inclusion on the flag isn’t intended to defend the document’s validity.
  • April 12, 1776, when the North Carolina Provincial Congress adopted the Halifax Resolves, making our state the first to allow its delegates to vote in favor of American independence.
More from RALtoday