What do the stars and the stripes on the U.S. flag stand for?

Expert Answers
estoverl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the very first "stars and stripes" flag was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1777, it replaced the individual flags that each colony had flown prior to the creation of the Declaration of Independence.

Originally the flag had stars arranged in a circle to signify that all the colonies shared equality. The side by side stripes signified the struggle the colonies faced fighting side by side for independence from England. The red, white and blue colors held specific meaning as well. The red represented valor, the white represented purity and blue represented loyalty.

By 1818 changes were made in the flag so that it could include a symbol for each new state that joined the Union. Rather than add more red and white stripes to signify new states, it was decided that the original thirteen colonies would be represented permanently by the thirteen red and white stripes. Additionally, it was decided that for each new state, a star would be added to the field of blue.

awaithe | Student

The 50 stars on the American flag represent the 50 states that compose the United States. The 13 stripes (alternating red and white) represent the original 13 American Colonies that declared their independence from Britain—staring the War for American Independence (also called the Revolutionary War or the American Revolution).

The flag we know today is not the same as the flag that flew during the Revolution. The American flag’s appearance has been shaped by three flag acts and the additions of each new state to our Union.

Congress passed the first flag act in 1777 while America was still fighting for its independence from Britain. This flag act established the major features of flag—13 stripes, alternating red and white, and 13 white stars on a blue background. The stars and stripes each symbolized the original 13 colonies-- New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

However, a problem arose as the country grew and added more states. How should the flag be altered to reflect the changing nation? The Flag Act of 1792 mandated that a stripe and star be added for every new state admitted to the union. However, as more and more states were added, people realized the flag would began to look a little crowded.

Therefore, the Flag Act of 1818 returned to the original design of 13 red-and-white stripes—still symbolizing the 13 colonies—but retained the idea of using a star to represent each state.

The flag went through its last changes in 1959 when Alaska and then Hawaii became states. There were now 50 stars and 13 stripes on the flag.

laurenwood730 | Student

The flag of the United States of America is comprised of two main focal points.

Firstly, there are 50 white stars on a blue background in the upper left corner of the flag. These stars are arranged in nine rows of six and represent the 50 states that exist in the country.

Secondly, there are 13 stripes that alternate in color between red and white and run horizontally across the flag. These stripes represent the original thirteen British colonies that were the first to receive statehood when American declared its independence.

There have been different iterations of the flag throughout history, but each version has maintained the same stars and stripes theme. As more states joined the Union, the flag was adjusted and more stars/stripes were added each time.

red1951 | Student

The thirteen (13) stripes on the flag represent the original thirteen states of the United States at the time independence from Great Britain was declared.  Each of the stars represents each of the 50 states of the union.

user9989404 | Student

The Flag of the United States signifies several different things. The colors of the stripes signify one thing and the stripes themselves signify another. The white stripes signify purity, liberty, and innocence, while the red stripes signify hardiness, bravery, and valor. The thirteen stripes together represent the 13 English Colonies that broke away from Britain and created a new nation--the United States of America. The blue in the square signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice. The 50 stars represent the 50 states that are part of the United States of America.  Together these different components make up the Flag of the United States of America, which is a country (nation) located in North America. Much like the flags of most countries, the Flag of the United States has become a symbol of admiration and respect for many of the citizens of the United States.