The federal government is investigating the Gadsden flag logo, better known as the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
On January 8, 2014, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received a complaint from an African American U.S. Postal Service maintenance mechanic in Denver, Colorado, stating a co-worker was wearing a cap to work with the “Don’t Tread on Me” slogan and a rattlesnake set to strike. The complainant stated he found the cap to be racially offensive to African Americans because the flag was designed by Christopher Gadsden, a “slave trader and owner of slaves.”
The man who filed the complaint, originally brought the matter up to the postal service. However, they dismissed the complaint because they couldn’t find a cognizable claim of discrimination. On June 20, 2014, the EEOC Office of Federal Operations reversed the agency’s dismissal, determining that complainant had raised a cognizable claim of harassment, and ordered the agency to investigate the claim.
The origins of the rattlesnake and the Gadsden flag
The rattlesnake was the favorite animal emblem of the Americans even before the Revolution. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette carried a bitter article protesting the British practice of sending convicts to America. The author suggested tht the colonists return the favor by shipping “a cargo of rattlesnakes, which could be distributed in St. James Park, Spring Garden, and other places of pleasure, and particularly in the noblemen’s gardens.” Three years later the same paper printed the picture (as seen above) of a snake as a commentary on the Albany Congress. To remind the delegates of the danger of disunity, the serpent was shown cut to pieces. Each segment is marked with the name of a colony, and the motto “Join or Die” below. Other newspapers took up the snake theme.
By 1774, the segments of the snake had grown together, and the motto had been changed to read:

“United Now Alive and Free Firm on this Basis Liberty Shall Stand and Thus Supported Ever Bless Our Land Till Time Becomes Eternity.”
Other authors felt the rattlesnake was a good example of America’s virtues. They argued that it is unique to America; individually its rattles produce no sound, but united they can be heard by all; and while it does not attack unless provoked, it is deadly to step upon one.

The Gadsden Flag: The American Revolutionary period was a time of intense but controlled individualism – when self-directing responsible individuals again and again decided for themselves what they should do, and did it- without needing anyone else to give them an assignment or supervise them in carrying it out.
Such a person was the patriot Colonel Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina. He had seen and liked a bright yellow banner with a hissing, coiled rattlesnake rising up in the center, and beneath the serpent the same words that appeared on the Striped Rattlesnake Flag – Don’t Tread On Me. Colonel Gadsden made a copy of this flag and submitted the design to the Provincial Congress in South Carolina. Commodore Esek Hopkins, commander of the new Continental fleet, carried a similar flag in February, 1776, when his ships put to sea for the first time.
Hopkins captured large stores of British cannon and military supplies in the Bahamas. His cruise marked the salt-water baptism of the American Navy, and it saw the first landing of the Corps of Marines, on whose drums the Gadsden symbol was painted.