The national flag of Haiti is a bicolour flag featuring two horizontal bands coloured blue and red, defaced by a white panel bearing the coat of arms. The coat of arms depicts a trophy of weapons atop a green hill,ready to defend freedom, and a royal palm symbolizing independence. The palm is topped by the Cap of Liberty. The motto L'Union Fait La Force ("Unity Makes Strength") appears on a white ribbon below the arrangement.
The first purely Haitian flag was adopted on May 18, 1803, on the last day of the Congress of Arcahaie, about fifty miles north of Port-au-Prince. Haitian lore holds that the newly appointed revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines created the flag by taking a French tricolor and ripping out the white center, which he discarded. He then asked Catherine Flon, his god-daughter, to sew the remaining bands together. The white pale removed, the blue was taken to represent Haiti's black citizens and the red the gens de couleur. The story is widely known in Haiti: the anniversary of the date is celebrated as the Haitian Flag Day and images of Catherine Flon have appeared on Haitian currency and stamps.
Following his proclamation as Emperor Jacques I, Dessalines
promulgated a new constitution on May 20, 1805. In it, the colors of the
flag were altered to black and red. This flag being subsequently adopted by Henri Christophe, the republicans under Alexandre Pétion returned to the colors blue and red, subsequently turning them horizontal and adding the newly adopted Haitian coat of arms.
During the period of the Haitian Empire of Faustin I,
his coat of arms was used on the flag and for official functions, but
it was subsequently abandoned upon his removal from office.
Between 1964 and 1986, the family dictatorships of François "Papa Doc" and Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier
returned to Dessalines' black and red design. They included the
national coat of arms, but altered the flags in its trophy to black as
Because the coat of arms is only used for national and military
flags, whereas the civil flag consists solely of the two unaugmented
horizontal bands, it was discovered at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics that Haiti and Liechtenstein were using the same flag. This led to the addition of a crown to the design of the flag of Liechtenstein.
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