Alabama State Flag Birth Was February 16, 1895Rickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Feb 18 2019 7:48 PM
ALABAMA: Retired Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson sent a TWITTER message about the birthday of the Alabama State Flag. So I checked the history of the flag.
The flag of the State of Alabama shall be a crimson cross of St. Andrew on a field of white. The bars forming the cross shall be not less than six inches broad, and must extend diagonally across the flag from side to side." – (Code 1896, §3751; Code 1907, §2058; Code 1923, §2995; Code 1940, T. 55, §5.)
The cross of St. Andrew referred to in the law is a diagonal cross, known in vexillology as a saltire. Because the bars must be at least six inches (150 mm) wide, small representations of the Alabama flag do not meet the legal definition.
On January 11, 1861, the Alabama Secession Convention passed a resolution designating an official flag. Designed by several women from Montgomery, final touches were made by Francis Corra of that city. One side of the flag displayed the Goddess of Liberty holding an unsheathed sword in her right hand; in her left she held a small blue flag with one gold star. Above the gold star appears the text "Alabama" in all capital letters. In an arch above this figure were the words "Independent Now and Forever". The reverse side of the flag had a cotton plant with a coiled rattlesnake. The text "Noli Me Tangere", ("Touch Me Not" in Latin), was placed below the cotton plant. This flag was flown until February 10, 1861, when it was removed to the Governor's Office after it was damaged by severe weather. It was never flown again.
THE CURRENT ALABAMA FLAG
Alabama's current flag was adopted in 1895. The legislation introduced by Representative John W. A. Sanford Jr. stipulates that "[t]he flag of the state of Alabama shall be a crimson cross of St. Andrew on a field of white. The bars forming the cross shall be not less than six inches broad, and must extend diagonally across the flag from side to side." Sanford's father, John W. A. Sanford, had commanded the 60th Alabama Infantry Regiment during the U.S. Civil War and he modeled his design on the battle flag used by that regiment. The design of that regimental flag was a white saltire over a blue field with a circle of white stars surrounding the crossing. It had been adopted from the flag of Hilliard's Legion of Alabama Volunteers which was raised in 1862 and dissolved after the Battle of Chickamauga with parts of its 1st and 3rd battalions entering the 60th Alabama Infantry. The regimental flag accompanied them through the end of the war and was surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse.
The saltire of Alabama's flag most closely resembles the saltire of the flag of Florida, which has its heritage in the Spanish Cross of Burgundy. Southern Alabama was originally part of Spanish Florida and subsequently West Florida. Although Alabama's adoption of its flag design predates that of Florida's by five years (1895), the 1868–1900 Seal of Florida depicted a white flag with a red saltire, similar to Florida's current flag or a Burgundian saltire, on top of a steamboat. Alabama's flag is officially a St. Andrew's cross as described in its legislation, and so is the Cross of Burgundy (Spanish: Cruz de Borgoña, Cruz de San Andrés), representing the cross on which St. Andrew was crucified.
It is sometimes believed that the crimson saltire of the current flag of Alabama was designed to resemble the blue saltire of the Confederate Battle Flag. Many battle flags were square, and the flag of Alabama is sometimes also depicted as square. The legislation that created the state flag did not specify that the flag was to be square, however. The authors of a 1917 article in National Geographic expressed their opinion that because the Alabama flag was based on the Battle Flag, it should be square. In 1987, the office of Alabama Attorney General Don Siegelman issued an opinion in which the derivation from the 60th Alabama Battle Flag is indicated, and also concluded that the proper shape is rectangular, as it had been depicted numerous times in official publications and reproductions; despite this, the flag is still often depicted as being square, even in official publications of the U.S. federal government.
Another remote, but possible inspiration was the flag carried by Co. "F", 7th Alabama Cavalry. The regiment was the only Alabama regiment in Rucker's Brigade, commanded by Col. Edmund Rucker of Tennessee (later Alabama), who became a prominent Birmingham businessman after the war. The flag of Rucker's brigade utilized a white background with a red saltire charged with 13 blue/green stars. This flag was given to Co. "F", 7th Alabama Cavalry by Rucker so that they might act as his Color Guard, and is held by the Alabama Department of Archives and History as part of its Alabama Civil War Period Flag Collection. But the flag carried by Co. F 7th Alabama was not an Alabama flag, it was the flag made for Rucker's Brigade a month before the 7th joined his brigade; the 7th was color party only after September 24, 1864. A bunting flag that exists, in the white and red configuration with 13 blue stars, is not believed to be Alabama-associated, but rather to be tied to Rucker's Brigade, as well.
According to historian John M. Coski, the adoption of Alabama's flag coincided with the rise of Jim Crow laws and segregation, as other former Confederate slave states, such as Mississippi and Florida, also adopted new state flags based off Confederate designs around the same time when those states instituted Jim Crow segregation laws themselves:
The flag changes in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida coincided with the passage of formal Jim Crow segregation laws throughout the South. Four years before Mississippi incorporated a Confederate battle flag into its state flag, its constitutional convention passed pioneering provisions to 'reform' politics by effectively disenfranchising most African Americans