Although Alabama became a state in 1819, the history of its state flag did not begin until 1861 when the decision was made to secede from the Union. In January 1861, at the Secession Convention, the first state flag of Alabama was adopted by the delegates. That flag was only used a few weeks; by March 1861, Alabama instead began using the first of two Confederate flags as its own. In 1865, following the end of the Civil War, the United States flag became Alabama’s official flag. Finally, in 1891, Alabama designed and eventually adopted a unique flag that has flown over the state ever since.
The 1861 state flag of Alabama was designed in Montgomery by a small group of women. On one side of the flag the figure of the Goddess of Liberty was displayed holding a sword in one hand and a smaller flag with only one star in the other hand; the words “Independent Now and Forever” appeared above the figure. The other side had a coiled rattlesnake along with a cotton plant with the words “Touch Me Not” underneath this depiction. This flag is sometimes referred to as the Secession Convention flag or the Republic of Alabama flag. About a month after it was adopted as the state flag of Alabama, a severe storm damaged it, and the flag was removed and never flown again.
Shortly after the first state flag of Alabama was removed, the state opted to use the Confederate National flag. On official occasions, the first national flag or the second national flag of the Confederacy were flown. Once the Civil War was over in 1865, those flags were removed, and Alabama returned to using the United States flag.
Alabama used the United States flag until 1891 when a new design for a state flag was commissioned. Finally, in 1895, a new flag was approved by the legislature, which remains the state flag of Alabama today. The approved design was patterned on the Confederate Battle flag and became Alabama's second official state flag.
Of all of the 50 state flags, Alabama’s is one of the simplest in design. As enacted into law, Alabama’s flag is a crimson St. Andrew’s cross placed against a white field. The colors used in the flag represent courage and purity, while the cross reflects part of the design of the Confederate Battle flag. Since the legislation does not dictate whether the flag must be rectangular or square, it is seen both ways.