The former state flag featured a prominent Confederate Battle Flag, which many of the state's residents found offensive due to memories of its historic use by the pro-slavery Confederate States of America. African-Americans in particular found it offensive, as the emblem was originally adopted not during the American Civil War period but in 1956 during the height of the fight for desegregation. Adherents of the 1956 flag claimed that the flag was designed to commemorate the upcoming Civil War Centennial five years away. Support for the flag in 1956 was not unanimous, with the United Daughters of the Confederacy opposing the flag with a prophetic statement that the change "would cause strife".
Political pressure for a change in the official state flag increased during the 1990s, in particular during the run-up to the 1996 Olympic Games that were held in Atlanta, Georgia. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) focused on the Georgia flag as a major issue and many business leaders in Georgia felt that the perceptions of the flag were causing economic harm to the state. Many Atlanta residents and some Georgia politicians refused to fly the 1956 flag and flew the pre-1956 flag instead.
Governor Roy Barnes responded to the increasing calls for a new state flag, and in 2001 quickly hurried a replacement through the legislature. His new flag sought to seek a compromise, by featuring small versions of some (but not all) of Georgia's former flags, including the 1956 flag, under the words "Georgia's History."
The new flag, though supposedly less offensive, was not popular. It was seen as looking as though it had been "designed by a committee," and was too complicated and busy. The North American Vexillological Association soon ranked it as the worst flag in North America, and stated that it "violates all basic rules of flag design." In 2002 Sonny Perdue was elected Governor, partially on a platform of allowing Georgians to choose their own flag in a referendum. Perdue disappointed many 1956 flag supporters by not pursuing a referendum on the flag they favored and instead allowed the Georgia legislature to draft a new flag in 2003.
The legislature's proposed flag combined elements of Georgia's previous flags, and created a composition that was largely inspired by the lesser known Confederate First National flag rather than the Confederate Battle Flag. Perdue signed the flag into law in 2003 on May 8. see also: Georgia (U.S. state)
The legislation which authorized the new flag allows for a public referendum on which of the two flags, the current one and the one just previous, will be the official flag of the state. The 1956 flag is not included in the choices, which has left some angry with Governor Perdue. The referendum will take place during the state's 2004 presidential primary election on March 2.