Montgomery, Alabama

Hey there, readers! It’s a long-overdue post. I am back with another Flag Redesign. I really enjoyed working on the State of New York’s flag and am thinking about doing a redesign post for every state capital, working my way alphabetically by state. Let me know your thoughts on that idea. There are some state capital flags that are really good, and when I hit those, I will try my darndest to redesign them.  Fortunately, the flag we will be looking at today does not have this problem. Let’s dive into the flag of Montgomery, Alabama!

History time: this flag was designed by a resident of the city, Robert Ryan. The Montgomery Chamber of Commerce set up a contest in 1951 to design a flag for the city. The flag committee settled on Mr. Ryan’s design and in 1952, the flag was officially adopted.

The meaning behind the flag is very apparent. The gray and red represent the Confederate States of America, a failed rebellion and main belligerent in the American Civil War. The center stripe also closely resembles the Confederate battle flag. The blue is meant to represent America’s current unity. The flag also contains the words, “city of” and “Montgomery” in all caps. Montgomery was an important city during the Civil War as well as during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. It was briefly the capital of the Confederacy as well as the site of the Montgomery bus boycotts in 1956 and the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965, which fought to bring an end to the Jim Crow laws of the South.

The above image is my attempt at drawing the flag based on the details from John Purcell’s book, American City Flags: 150 Flags from Akron to Yonkers. Unfortunately, this was the only source I could find regarding Montgomery’s flag. I can confirm that this is, in fact, the city’s flag; it can be seen flying at City Hall. Additionally, if you check the city’s website, a pin of the flag is worn by some of the city’s council members. I have seen some articles mention that the flag contains 11 stars along the blue stripe, but in the source above as well as in images of the flag being flown, the flag only appears to have 7 stars.

This is an opinion website, so I’ll give you my opinion of the flag: I am not a fan. From a purely artistic standpoint, the flag is extremely busy. The wreath’s tan color gets lost in the red and gray. It’s difficult to focus on anything when viewing the flag from a distance. And the worst part of this flag: text. Why do cities feel the need to put the name of the city on their flag? Is it in case you forget where you are? When a flag is waving in the wind, who is taking the time to read the text on it? 

But let’s not avoid the obvious: this flag holds a lot of Confederate symbolism. Let’s give some context to this design. In the 1950’s, there was a revival in Confederate identity in the South as well as a push to further segregationist policies. Take, for example, the state of Georgia; in 1956, leaders of the Democrat Party of Georgia pushed an initiative to change their state flag to include the Confederate battle flag. It isn’t surprising that Montgomery chose this design for their city’s flag around the same time. 

The meaning of the Confederate battle flag is a hot topic of discussion. It’s controversial history has led to many debates about its use on official flags and its display on public and private property. Some see it as a symbol of states’ rights and southern pride. For others, it is a reminder of slavery in America and racism towards African-Americans. 

I am not from the South. I have no attachment to the Confederacy or its symbols. At any rate, I find the use of the flag distasteful. You can argue that the flag is about states’ rights or southern pride, but you can never separate the flag from a failed rebellion attempting to uphold its ability to own human beings. With that said, one of the greatest dangers we face today is erasing history. I don’t believe such symbols should be completely removed from all aspects of society. Instead, they should be used as a reminder of our past. Knowledge is power, and those with knowledge of the past can avoid repeating it.

It’s for this reason that I chose to incorporate some of the shapes and colors of Montgomery’s current flag in my redesigns. Montgomery was the center of the Confederacy at one time. And while this fact shouldn’t be celebrated, it should be remembered as one of the two major points in the city’s history (the other being Montgomery’s importance during the Civil Rights Movement). You cannot change your past, but you can determine your future. My hope is to acknowledge these two pivotal moments in Montgomery’s history in my flag designs and capture the promise of a better future for all individuals.

Let’s take a look at my redesigns.

I kept the flag’s current ratio of 5:8 in my designs. This project required a lot of rework, as I wasn’t happy with my initial drafts. My first attempts seemed to highlight too much of the city’s current flag, and I found them resembling the Confederate battle flag, something I wanted to avoid. It wasn’t an easy task balancing the need for a more inclusive design with the want to acknowledge the city’s difficult past. However, I finally settled on 10 designs that would make great replacements to Montgomery’s current flag. The focus of my designs (with one exception) is the use of a star. I alternated between the five and six-pointed stars. The five-pointed star is the typical star used on many American flags. The hexagram can be found on Montgomery’s city seal. With Montgomery being Alabama’s capital, I thought it important to include a star in the design. Additionally, to me, the single star represents the Union and the idea that we will not let past divisions further divide us as a people.

Starting with the first two designs: these closely resemble Montgomery’s current flag. I was inspired by the pins of the flag I saw on some of the city council members. The pin made the gray on the hoist of the flag appear almost teal. These designs simplify the current flag, removing the text and wreath. The first redesign uses a five-pointed star. The second uses the six-pointed star and a simplified wreath. Both designs place the charge on the upper canton closest to the hoist.

Blue Stripe A
Blue Stripe B

My next design is a play on the current flag of Alabama (a crimson saltire on a white background). In this design, the saltire is split in half, representing a nation divided during the Civil War, and a hexagon sits in the center, representing America as one, unified nation, where, as the late Dr. King said, individuals are not judged by their race.

Crimson Hexagon

The next four designs feature a chevron style. The addition of the orange, gold, and teal blue was inspired by the color palette utilized on Montgomery’s city website. The chevrons are used to represent Montgomery’s look forward from its past towards a better future. When utilizing the five-pointed star in some of these designs, I decided to face the top of the star with the chevron, so that when the flag flew vertically, the star would be facing upwards.

Chevron A
Chevron B
Chevron C
Chevron D

The final three designs feature a vertical triband. The first two have an uneven triband ratio of 2:4:2 and feature the five-pointed star and six-pointed star with a wreath, respectively. The third triband has equal vertical stripes and features a teal five-pointed star. 

Large Triband Star
Triband Hexagon
Triband Star

A quick note. The city has an unofficial logo that they use on their website and social media pages; it contains a stylized letter “M” with 10 stars in an arch above the “M”. I thought this logo (specifically, the “M” and star arch) would look great in some of my flag designs in place of the five or six-pointed stars. However, to avoid any copyright infringement, I chose not to include the logo in my redesigns.

And with that, my second post of the redesign series is complete! Please vote below on your favorite (or if you didn’t like any design). If you have any questions, comments or criticisms about my designs, please feel free to contact me and let me know; I’d love the feedback!

Thanks for reading.