DG MARTIN COLUMN: Change North Carolina flag?

Published 4:49 pm Monday, June 26, 2023

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Does North Carolina need a new state flag?

Yes, say two North Carolina State University students, Wyat Hamilton and Adam Fleischer.

D.G. Martin

Last week, they told the Raleigh News & Observer that the current flag leaves people feeling apathetic.

Fleischer said, “We’re trying to bring more pride to the people of North Carolina, trying to up their excitement about being here and being a part of our state and our culture.”

The current state flag is familiar to many North Carolinians. It consists of a horizontal red stripe over a white stripe and, at the hoist, a vertical blue stripe incorporating a white star, the initials of the state (NC), and two ribbons, each with a date inscribed.

Hamilton and Fleischer believe the use of text makes “the design busy and difficult to read and suggest instead that symbols of the state should be used rather than text.”

They criticize using the textual dates referencing the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and the Halifax Resolves. They say the flag’s use of text makes the design busy and difficult to read from afar, and instead of offering symbols tied to the state, it must “literally spell out what it aims to represent.”

They also criticized the big NC on the flag. Although the initials clearly identify the flag as North Carolinian, Hamilton is still critical. “Suffice to say, if you have to remind yourself of what your name is by putting your initials on the state flag, your symbolism has failed.”

One flag that seems to meet their criteria to a tee is South Carolina’s. It features only a crescent and a palmetto tree on a blue background. No words. Nothing else. Most South Carolinians know that the tree represents a Revolutionary fort built with palmetto logs and the crescent represents the shape of a badge worn by soldiers at the fort.

What images or symbols do they suggest for North Carolina?

They have presented stylized versions of our wonderful coastal lighthouses and suggested one of them would be good for the flag. Also, they introduced an eight-pointed star used by American militia at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse during the American Revolution.

Other than a stylized lighthouse or an eight-pointed star, what distinctive North Carolina images would be a good fit for a new North Carolina flag?

People in Charlotte might argue that a hornets’ nest in the middle of the flag would be distinctive. It would be firmly based on the historical resistance that North Carolinians gave against Cornwallis’s British troops during the Revolution.
Mountain folk could argue that an image of Grandfather Mountain on the flag would represent something special about our state.

Coastal residents might push for an image of Virginia Dare arguing that most North Carolinians would identify the connection to The Lost Colony.

Or they might suggest an image of the Wright Brothers’ flying machine that made the first successful powered flight on our state’s Outer Banks.

NASCAR fans would say a racing stock car on the flag would be recognized as a symbol of the state. Others might argue that a moonshine bottle might be a better symbol.

Looking back just a few years ago, there would be people who would want to use the image of a cured tobacco leaf. Today, they might argue for another popular weed.

North Carolina’s official toast begins, “Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine, The summer land where the sun doth shine, Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.”

If we need to have a flag with a single, simple image on our flag, I would vote for the long leaf pine.

But, notwithstanding the good arguments made by Hamilton and Fleischer, I like our current flag and hope we keep it.

D.G. Martin, a retired lawyer, served as UNC-System’s vice president for public affairs and hosted PBS-NC’s “North Carolina Bookwatch.”