The Louisiana Acadian Flag:
Its history and meaning
The Louisiana Acadian flag is a symbol of pride in the state’s French-Acadian heritage and culture.
It can be seen throughout the 22-parish area of South Louisiana known as Acadiana. You can see it flying, just under the American flag, in front of several schools, businesses and town halls. It’s printed on business and personal stationery; on brochures; in print media ads; and, of course, in Acadiana Profile magazine. It appears on countless Web sites and is worn with pride as a shoulder patch on firefighters’ uniforms in some communities.
The flag was designed in 1965 by Dr. Tom Arceneaux, dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Southwestern Louisiana from 1941 to 1973. Arceneaux was one of the early leaders of the Louisiana French renaissance movement – a grass-roots effort designed to revive interest and pride in Louisiana’s French-Acadian heritage, language and culture. The movement began circa 1955, the bicentennial of the infamous Acadian exile.
A charter member of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, or CODOFIL, Arceneaux was a longtime supporter of English-French bilingual education in Louisiana schools.
The flag was eventually adopted by the Louisiana Legislature in 1974 as the official flag of the Acadiana region.
But before that happened, Arceneaux turned over his rough sketch of the flag to commercial artist Al Esteve to firm up the design and to do the necessary pre-press production work – to make it camera-ready, as we say in the publishing business.
Using state-of-the-art pre-press production materials and tools – amberlith, an X-Acto knife, veloxes, masking tape, liquid opaque and brush, translucent tissue paper – Esteve faithfully translated Arceneaux’s rough sketch into the materials necessary to reproduce the flag en masse on a press. With a steady hand, a sharp eye and the talent he had acquired from the Kansas City Art Institute, the artist labored over what he knew was a very special project.
In the end, he produced the original artwork for the Acadian flag, rendering Arceneaux’s concept perfectly, bringing it to life in vibrant tones of red, blue, silver and gold.
Esteve, by the way, was the first art director for Acadiana Profile, serving in that role for 17 years, beginning when the magazine began, in 1968, and retiring in 1985.
He was very proud of his work on the flag, and I would compliment him on it from time to time, especially when the flag began showing up on Lafayette city vehicles and in print ads in the 1970s.
“Man, if I had a nickel for every time the Acadian flag was reproduced, I’d be a millionaire,” he used to say.
Indeed, he would have been rich, financially speaking. But he was wealthy in other ways. He was a good and decent man, a top-notch production artist, a loyal employee, well-mannered and kind. He served his country when called to the Big War and, I am told, was a good husband and provider.
I still sense his hand in every reproduction of the Acadian flag.
Back in 1965, when Arceneaux designed the flag, he offered the following explanation of its elements:
“To symbolize the French origin of the Acadians is a portion of the arms of their mother country – three fleurs de lis, silver on a blue field.
“To symbolize Spain, the nation which controlled Louisiana at the time of the Acadian migration to Louisiana and under whom they prospered after years of exile, is the old arms of Castile – a gold tower on a red field.
“The gold star on a white field represents Our Lady of the Assumption, Patroness of the Acadians. The star also symbolizes the active participation of the Acadians in the American Revolution, as soldiers under Galvez.”