Haiti’s first flag was conceived by the revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who used French flag bits to stick the colors blue and red together. According to local history, red represented those of mixed African and European descent, and blue represented Haiti’s African residents. Other accounts attributed the choice of colors by Dessalines and the palm tree and weapons symbol on the current flag to the Vodun religion.
The flag’s creation is said to have taken place on May 18th, 1803, by Dessalines’ goddaughter, Catherine Flon, on the last day of the Congress of Arcahaie. As a result, May 18th and Catherine Flon are now celebrated during Haitian Flag Day. Though the flag has changed colors to black and red several times in 1806 and the 1960s-to the 1980s, the blue and red colors have been quickly reinstated, and the motto of the Haitian flag remains similar. Some examples have included “Unity Makes Strength” and “Freedom or Death.”
The international celebration of the Haitian flag first began during the 1990s, but the flag was celebrated in secrecy from 1915-to 1934 during the U.S. occupation of Haiti. IAFL looks forward to celebrating flag Day on May 18th alongside the Haitian diaspora community and back home!
Written by Zahra Fallah