February Is Black History Month! What Are the Black History Month Colors and What Do They Mean?

Everything to know about the four colors of Black History Month.

February is Black History Month and it pays tribute to the achievements of African Americans throughout U.S. history. It has been celebrated since 1976, but actually started back in 1926 with Negro History Week. This is when historian, Carter G. Woodson, decided to showcase the contributions of Black history, which eventually led to Black History Month. During this month, the focus is on learning about Black culture, influential leaders and significant historical events. Learning about Black History Month's colors is one way to do this.

Each year, as Black History Month is celebrated, there are four colors that you'll likely see incorporated into brands' logos, Facebook profile picture themes, flags flying outside of homes and businesses or featured in windows, social media content and more. These four colors for Black History Month offer individuals and groups the opportunity to show solidarity, as well as pride, by paying tribute to and honoring the achievements and history of African Americans.

So what are the colors of Black History Month? We'll go over the four colors and explain what they signify.

Related: 25 Soulful Recipes From the African Diaspora to Celebrate Black History Month



Black History Month Colors and Their Meanings

Black History Month uses four colors—black, red, green and yellow—to symbolize unity and pride. Each of the four colors has its own distinct meaning and significance.

The colors of Black History Month are also the colors of many African flags which have been derived from the Ethiopian flag as well as the Pan-African flag. Each set has three colors—Ethiopia uses the colors red, yellow and green which are used to represent the rainbow, and the Pan-African flag contains the colors red, black and green.

The Pan-African flag was created in 1920 to represent the unity of African people no matter where they live, and to symbolize Black liberation in the United States. The Ethiopian flag was inspired by the rainbow and is used by several of the other 53 African countries.

Although the Pan-African flag contains the three colors of red, black and green, yellow was borrowed and added to the Black History Month colors from the Ethiopian flag. The four colors are a combination of the two sets of Pan-African colors.

Related: 10 Books Parents Can Read to Their Children for Black History Month

Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Assn. (UNIA) in 1914, which "encouraged the formation of separate institutions out of pride, not because of discrimination." Garvey "emphasized black unity based on shared African heritage."

And in a book published by the UNIA in 1921, this is what was written about the significance of three of the four colors used for Black History Month: "Red is the color of the blood which men must shed for their redemption and liberty; black is the color of the noble and distinguished race to which we belong; green is the color of the luxuriant vegetation of our Motherland."

  • Black - Represents the resilient people whose existence as a nation is honored and affirmed by the existence of a flag.

  • Red - Symbolizes the blood of innocent Black lives that has been shed throughout history.

  • Yellow - Stands for optimism, justice and equality for everyone.

  • Green - Symbolizes Africa's rich greenery and other natural resources.

Related: How to Talk to Your Kids About Black History Month—and 25 Ways to Honor It

What Is the Theme of Black History Month 2023?

This year's Black History Month theme is "Black Resistance." According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), this is a call to everyone "to study the history of Black Americans’ responses to establish safe spaces, where Black life can be sustained, fortified, and respected."

Next Up: In Honor of Black History Month, 30 Black History Facts You May Not Be Aware Of