The state flag used from 1956 to 2001 featured a prominent Confederate Battle Flag, which some residents found offensive due to its historical use by the Confederate States of America and its contemporary use as a symbol by various white supremacy groups.
After it was repealed as the state flag in 2001, the city of Trenton, Georgia adopted it as the official city flag.
There is no written record of what was said on the House and Senate floors, when the 1956 flag bill was introduced and passed. Nor does Georgia provide for a statement of legislative intent when a bill is introduced. A subsequent research report, by the Georgia Senate, states that Support for the 1956 flag change can be broken down into two basic arguments: the change was made in preparation for the Civil War centennial, which was five years away; or that the change was made to commemorate and pay tribute to the Confederate veterans of the Civil War. Years later, critics expressed belief that the flag was adopted as a symbol of racist protest, citing legislation passed in 1956 which included bills rejecting Brown v. Board of Education and comments by then-Governor Marvin Griffin that "The rest of the nation is looking to Georgia for the lead in segregation." However,while there is no reference in official 1956 documents, nor contemporary comments from legislative supporters, nor from the flags designer, John Sammons Bell, linking the flag to Brown v. Board of Education or a racist protest.
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. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) focused on the Georgia flag as a major issue and some business leaders in Georgia felt that the perceptions of the flag were causing economic harm to the state. In 1992, Governor Zell Miller announced his intention to get the battle flag element removed, but the state legislature refused to pass any flag-modifying legislation. The matter was dropped after the 1993 legislative session. Many Atlanta residents and some Georgia politicians refused to fly the 1956 flag and flew the pre-1956 flag instead.
Miller's successor as Governor, Roy Barnes, responded to the increasing calls for a new state flag, and in 2001 hurried a replacement through the Georgia General Assembly. His new flag sought a compromise, by featuring small versions of some (but not all) of Georgia's former flags, including the controversial 1956 flag, under the words "Georgia's History." Those flags are a thirteen-star U.S. flag of the "Betsy Ross" design; the first Georgia flag (before 1879); the 1920–1956 Georgia flag; the previous state flag (1956–2001); and the current fifty-star U.S. flag.
In a 2001 survey on state and provincial flags in North America conducted by the North American Vexillological Association, the redesigned Georgia flag was ranked the worst by a wide margin; the group stated that the flag "violates all the principles of good flag design."