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May 18: Haitian Flag Day

Catherine Flon Monument, Arcahaie, a reminder of one of the women who symbolizes our unity in the quest for liberty and pride.

One of the primary symbols of Haitian freedom is the Haitian flag created in Arcahaie, a town located outside of Port-Au-Prince, on May 18, 1803. Since then, May 18th has been observed as Haitian Flag Day as it has become a symbol of pride, unity, and individual liberty. In Haiti, Flag Day is a major national holiday celebrated with great marching band in the capital Port-au-Prince, and other cities in the country. In other countries with a large number of Haitians, particularly in the United States, Haitians pay tribute to the blue and red flag by carrying it around with them or on their car. They celebrate with floats, parade, This gesture reminds all Haitians of the struggle of their forefathers who liberated the nation to be the first independent black country in the world.


The Haitian Flag was born during a meeting, known as the Congress of Arcahaie set for May 14 to 18, 1803. The Congress was opened by Dessalines and Pétion in May 15, 1803, on the Mérotte plantation in Arcahaie. The main agenda was to establish a united command of the revolutionary army under the supreme authority of Jean-Jacques Dessalines in order to put on new strategies and tactics to thwart the colonial army. Dessalines was appointed general-in-chief of the insurrection army.


The question of the new flag came up on the last day of the political congress in May 18, as the indigenous army needed its own flag. The new Commander General suggested the old slogan "Live Free or Die" be replaced by "Liberty or Death." The debate over the proclamation of the creation of a new Haitian flag lasted a whole day. It was only in the evening that the Congress of Arcahaie definitively adopted the new Flag of Haiti. The white stripe was eliminated, while the remaining red and blue bands were attached together. The removal of the white stripe symbolizes the abolition of the French colonial empire and the union of the blacks and mulattoes in Haiti. The arms were composed of a palm tree surmounted by the Phrygian cap of liberty and ornamented with trophies with a banner across the bottom saying "L'Union Fait La Force" (through Unity there is Strength).

Catherine Flon

By this gesture, they publicly designated that this country no longer wanted to be recognized as a French territory and that the people who lived on this land preferred to be dead rather than be slaves. "Liberté ou la Mort!" meaning "Liberty or Death" had become the new motto as it had already been embraced at the Ceremony of Bwa Kayiman " held on August 14, 1791.


Haiti's first flag was sewn by a lady named Catherine Flon at the Congress.

The French troops were defeated during the battle of Vertieres on November 18, 1803. Their capitulation allowed the proclamation of Haiti's independence on January 1 st , 1804. Haiti new flag has been raised proudly all over the country.


Since May 18, 1803, the Haitian flag has known many changes in position or of color. In 1805 , shortly after Jean-Jacques Dessalines self-appointed proclamation as emperor, the Haitian flag color was changed to black and red bands placed vertically respectively. After the emperor's death, in 1806, the country was divided into two republics for 14 years. Henri Christophe, in the northern part kept the flag that Dessalines used.


In the South and the western part of the country, Alexandre Petion nourished the idea of giving the indigenous army its own flag. He went back to 1804's flag that was blue and red only this time he added the white squared portion that included the country arms and the famous motto "L'UNION FAIT LA FORCE", meaning that through unity we find strength.


This flag was in use till 1964 when Papa Doc Duvalier modified it with the black-red vertical bi-color of Dessalines on which he added a modified version of the arms of the Republic.


On February 25, 1986, after the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc) and the Duvalier regime, the Haitian flag was again changed with the request of the Haitian people to two equal-sized horizontal bands, a blue one on top and a red one underneath. The coat of arms of the Republic remained in the center. That is the flag used until today.

As we celebrate the Haitian flag Day, we need to remember that our ancestors created this bi-color blue and red as a symbol of unity among all of us of Haitian descent to fight for freedom and be independent forever.


Last update 12-06-2012

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