Red White Blue Meaning as the Colors of the American Flag

Every Memorial Day and July 4th millions of Americans get into the celebratory spirit. They adorned their homes with flags and striped bunting. They even deck themselves out in patriotic colors. But what is the red white blue meaning associated with this symbol of the USA? Why are the colors in the American flag red, white and blue rather than green, yellow and blue or some other combination?

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Red White Blue Meaning = Freedom and Liberty

The flag of the United States of America is a symbol of freedom and liberty. When I was a child each school day began with the pledge of allegiance. Standing at attention, facing the flag with right hand over the heart, reciting: 

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

It was this one simple daily act that ingrained the symbolism of the flag and the red white blue meaning into my mind. Years later while studying color meaning, symbolism and psychology I became curious as to why these colors were chosen to represent our country. Here is what I learned.

Official Red White Blue Meaning

The Continental Congress adopted the American flag in 1777, to celebrate the country’s independence and unity. A specific meaning behind the choice of colors was not given at that time. However, five years later, in June 1782, the Continental Congress introduced the seal for the USA. It was then that the significance of the colors and the red white blue meaning was revealed. (usa.gov)

Charles Thompson, who was Secretary of the Continental Congress
at the time, told his assembled audience

White signifies purity and innocence, Red, bravery & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief, and the placement of the broad band signifies, vigilance, perseverance & justice.

The stripes on the flag represent the 13 states and thirteen white stars in a blue field represent a new constellation symbolized their union.

Our founding fathers recognized the ability of color to communicate meaning. But, whether Americans know the specific significance of each of the colors is not as important as the power of these colors to evoke our patriotic spirit and unify us as a country.

Seeing these colors evokes feelings of pride for our country and an appreciation for all who have made it a great place to live. What is the meaning of red, white and blue for you?​ I invite you to leave a comment to let me know.

Read Time: 2 min
  • Porter Allison says:

    I noticed a ruffled patriot fan draped over the balcony of a neighborhood home while walking my dog this morning. When I saw it it reminded me of the old plantation celebrations of the antebellum south. While trying to find support for the feelings the fan evoked I came across this article. When I read about the meaning of the colors of the flag how the white signifies purity and innocence the red bravery and valor the blue justice and integrity I felt empty. That explanation only stirred feelings of hypocrisy and broken promises to me. I served in the USMC from 1981-1987. I learned the history of the Marine Corps in boot camp I was taught American History in HS and having recited the pledge of allegiance to the flag daily for years as a child I was fully indoctrinated into American patriotism. So how did I get here today. Well after a couple of failed marriages struggles with drugs and alcohol I can clearly remember the hope of brighter days with the election of Barack Obama. The nation was in the midst of what was described at the time as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and it seemed that the President faced incessant opposition yet things seemed to steadily improve in my little world. I’d gone through treatment gotten sober and although things were much better in my own personal space I noticed there was a segment of America that was extremely sour and for no apparent reason besides the fact that Barack Obama was a black man. The frequency of police brutality against POC the media rhetoric of the day and the obvious divisions among the population seemed to make this clear. The election of DJT the events that followed and continue seem to indicate that the worst is yet to come. I see a day when the red will signify the bloodshed the blue the sentiment of a dying nation and the white the greatest lie ever told…

  • Kristy says:

    I love my flag. But, I love the freedom even more that my flag represents. I am a veteran. I served 1980-1984. And, as much as I love LOVE my flag…that same freedom gives those who hate it to burn it. Freedom is freedom. And, I fought for them to have the freedom to burn my Ol Glory. The flag I love and put down my life for. But still… freedom, is freedom is freedom. And, I am free.

  • Nan says:

    I have enjoyed reading all of the comments. It is so good that we have a different thoughts. The text above all of these comments reveals the historic meaning of our flag’s colors. I believe that the question that we were invited to answer is, “what are our thoughts when we see the flag’s colors.” We all know the historic meaning, but we all have different thoughts and we may have all learned or heard different stories. Most of us have answered the question as it has been asked. It is not something to argue over. A personal thought is just that, it is personal. It is wonderful that there are so many wonderful personal thoughts about our wonderful flag. I myself have felt that the red is for blood of all that have died in service for our great country, and paid the ultimate price. I think of white as having a pure heart, and blue is for the freedom that we have because of those who had a pure heart and gave their lives for our freedom. This is not what the historic meanings are, but it is my personal thoughts. The men and women who have fought so freely for our freedom should never be forgotten. May we forever pray for the freedoms that we have, to live on and never be taken away. When we see our flag, may we always remember the brave men and women who have so freely fought for out great Country. No matter if they are alive of passed, we need to remember them all. Freedom is not free.

  • Cheryl says:

    Red for the blood spilled in the war with Britain. White for the snow at Valley Forge. Blue for the sky over our new land. Stars for a new constellation in a new world.

  • Rocco says:

    Red the blood lost in the name of freedom. White innocents and/unselfish act. Blue freedom and or virtue.

  • Judith Jones says:

    I love all the comments made about this country I love so much. May we as Americans live up to the high standards set by all the meanings.

  • SG says:

    I was taught that Red stood for the blood of the fallen military, white represents the bandages. Can’t recall blue, think it was the sky.

  • Colin Whitehouse says:

    The field of dark blue with brightly burning stars reminds me of the promise of Abraham when God said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars — if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be” (Gen. 15:5). When I look at our flag, the heavens open up and the stars shine with promise that God has kept to Abraham — to bless all the nations through his nation. The United States of America remains exceptional in that it stands as the most giving and generous, the most protective of life, the most free nation in the world. It stands to offer that to all no matter where you are from. It stands as an example that all nations look to.

  • SSG Dave McPherson says:

    Isn’t red historically connected to Valor. IE the red badge of courage. Are courage and valor not the same meaning of words. IE they were courageous or They were valourous. Don’t confuse it, should it be a period or comma? It is the land of the free…… You decide the meaning of all communication. I think the overall meaning is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Maybe all the answers are correct.

    • Kate Smith says:

      Yes, red is connected to valor. The meaning I have given is taken from the official U.S. documentation of the color meaning. Over the years additional depth of meaning has been given to these colors and there is also personal associations that are important to many individuals.

  • Carole says:

    Always was taught red was blood spill for fighting for the freedom of this country white represented the purity of a new country blue was for valor and bravery for fighting for the new country of freedom

    • Kate Smith says:

      Carole, I think many people have taught different meanings over the years. I have gone to source documents there are always many meanings given to any color. Thanks for your comment.

  • Josh says:

    As a side, when US servicemen are retired or buried, the families are given the flag folded with the stripes tucked inside, no red or white may be showing, in a tri-fold to symbolize the hats the patriots wore during the Revolutionary War. The stripes in this context represent the rays of the sun disappearing into the night, as a soldier is retired for good. Traditionally it’s passed on to the oldest son in military families.

  • Ross says:

    Excellent and evocative of “Love of Country”. Thank you!

  • Atlas says:

    The American flag is red white and blue the same there mother country Great Britain 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 , weird how you conveniently left that out.

  • Brunol36 says:

    Its the colours of the mother country Great Britain. Its so obvious its ridiculous.

  • tony addison says:

    red is for the blood that was shed, white is for the land that was crossed, and blue is for the oceans that were crossed to get back home for the freedom we have and love

  • phyllis baird says:

    I believe that red: is for the blood that was once shed.
    White: is for innocence and purity
    Blue: Is for bravery.

    • Kate Smith says:

      Those color/meaning connections don’t match the historic records about the color choices but I do like the thoughts both you and B. Lynn have about the associations with the color meanings. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

      • B. Lynn says:

        I agree with you. Every military member wears the flag on that uniform with the blue part of the flag facing in the direction they walk. You have to enter every situation with bravery and when that flag is folded up and given to a fallen soldiers family, it’s the blue side up.

        • Michael Gerard Hogge says:

          The only reason the blue Union field is forward or to the right on USA flag shoulder patches on military uniforms is to signify that US troops never retreat, that they always advance forward. This is from a very good friend of mine, a retired Sergeant, First Class, US Army who served in Afghanistan & Iraq and he ought to know.

          • Kate Smith says:

            I’m learning some new things about the flag and its meaning. Thanks for sharing the information about symbolism and placement.

            • Josh says:

              The flag on the shoulder is placed with the blue side at the front because it was meant to replicate the flag trailing behind the soldiers as they carried it into battle, as they would in the old days.

              Red represents valor and bravery. White represents purity and innocence. Blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

              The stars signify the unity of the many states as one. The 13 stripes signify the original 13 colonies settled by the British, which are also referred to as the Commonwealth States.

              Lots of people here today tend to lean towards a modern interpretation where Red is blood of the fallen, White is the land, and Blue is bravery. But this idea came about long after the founding fathers laid down the original meanings.

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