Trinidad and Tobago became independent from the United Kingdom on August 31, 1962. When the island nation gained independence, it also adopted its own national flag, which was designed by the Independence Committee with input from the people. The Independence Committee submitted a report with an image of the new flag on June 26, 1962, and the new Cabinet immediately accepted it. The flag is red with a bold stripe, black with white borders, running across it diagonally, from the upper hoist side to the lower fly side and pointing to the peak of the staff.
Historically, prior to the country’s independence in 1962, several flags were used in Trinidad and Tobago. From 1889-1962, the country used a colonial flag while it was still under UK control. That flag was blue, with a British flag ensign in the corner, and with a circular badge on its right side depicting a ship arriving in the oceans in front of a mountain. This represented the UK presence in the islands.
Briefly, several countries in the Caribbean, all colonies of the UK, united to form the West Indies Federation from 1958-1962. That federation also had its own flag: blue, with narrow white undulating stripes, and a yellow or orange circle in its center. This represented the Caribbean Sea and the sun shining upon it.
Trinidad and Tobago’s contemporary flag has symbolic aspects as well. The red represents fire, the black represents earth, and the white represents water. In terms of larger meaning, the red is intended to symbolize the warmth of the sun as well as the courage and vitality of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. The black color symbolizes the unity, dedication and purpose of the nation’s people and the strength of the land. And finally, the use of white symbolizes the sea which bonds the people, the purity of the aims of independence, and the equality of all people.
From a proportional standpoint, the flag is in a 1:2 ratio. The white stripes have a width of 1/30 of the flag’s total length; the width of the black stripe is 2/15 of the flag’s length. Thus, all three stripes together are 1/5 of the Trinidad and Tobago flag’s length.