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February is Black History Month, a time for celebration, recognition and reflection.

If you’re looking to show support of the Black community and your Black colleagues, you can add a small graphic to your UW Medicine email signature or display a small poster in your work area if space allows.

This year, the email signature graphic and poster depict the colors of the Pan-African flag, a symbol of Black liberation in the United States. The poster shares images of those who are important to Black History: the present-day healthcare worker, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Odessa Brown. 

UW Medicine will also be flying the Pan-African flag at hospital campuses beginning Feb. 4.

The importance of the Pan-African flag 

In the years leading up to 1920, the leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Marcus Garvey, acknowledged the lack of flag representation of the people of the African diaspora. He believed that having a flag would symbolize Black freedom and the presence of Black Americans within the country’s politics. The flag was officially adopted by the UNIA in 1920.

The African diaspora is primarily comprised of the collection of communities derived from the millions of African people who were brought to the Americas and Caribbean through the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

The Pan-African flag’s colors have a symbolic meaning:


The red color represents blood. There are many different interpretations for this, as it could stand for the collective blood shared between the African descendants, or the blood shed by the Africans who lost their lives in the battles for freedom.


The black color represents the collective of the Black peoples who make up the African diaspora. It symbolizes the melanin that creates their complexion, the soils of the Nile Valley and unity.  


The green color of the flag symbolizes growth, prosperity and the potential the Pan-Africanists have as a community when unified. Some reference the green color as a reference to the natural fertility of African lands.  

The flag remains a collective symbol for Black liberation, identity and presence of Black people who descended from Africans taken from their land. Today, it’s proudly displayed by many Black people and allies. Especially in times when the lives of Black Americans are dismissed, deprecated or discounted, such as after senseless killings of Black Americans, you can often see the flag proudly displayed by the community to show solidarity. 

Black history in Seattle healthcare 

Understanding Black history in your own community is essential for understanding how widespread the disparities were for Black Americans, which is why we chose the image of Odessa Brown for this year’s poster.

Odessa Brown, an original Arkansas native, experienced health problems and had difficulty getting medical care. She was turned away from a Chicago hospital once when seeking care, a common experience for Black people during the Great Depression.

Many years later, Brown and her children settled in Seattle, where she became a community organizer who fought for healthcare equity in the Central District, particularly for children. She died of leukemia at age 49, a year before a new children’s clinic opened in the area. The community named the clinic after her in her honor, now known as the Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic. 

The clinic that started with just one doctor who wanted to deliver on Brown’s mission is now fully staffed with providers who serve a diverse community of patients and families. 

How to add the Black History Month email signature via Microsoft Outlook 

First, visit the UW Medicine brand site to download the signature. Once downloaded, use one of the relevant links below to get detailed instructions on how to add your email signature.

Office 365 and 2019

Office 2007-2010 

Download the Black History Month poster 

If you are interested in having a poster to display for Black History Month, you can follow this link to download a PDF.