JACKSON, miss. – A new Mississippi flag with no Confederate images flapped in parts of the state Wednesday, the day after a majority of voters approved the design with a star-studded magnolia and the phrase “In God We Trust”.
Officials hoisted the flag outside Hattiesburg City Hall and on the University of Mississippi campus at Oxford.
“Mississippi voters have sent a message to the world that we are moving forward together,” former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson said in a statement.
Anderson headed a nine-person commission that recommended the new flag design. Uncertified election results – which didn’t include numbers from Pearl River County as of Wednesday lunchtime – showed that the new flag received more than 70% support. It received a majority in all reporting circles except George and Greene.
“I have a new sense of hope for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and I know this new symbol will create better prospects for the entire state of Mississippi,” said Anderson.
Mississippi legislature withdrew a 126-year-old state flag in late June that was the last in the United States to contain the Confederate battle emblem. The vote came as protests against racial injustice raged across the country and Confederate monuments were overturned or torn down by authorities. The Southeastern Conference and State Baptist Convention were among the groups calling on lawmakers to withhold the flag, which critics have cited as a constant visual reminder of Mississippi’s racist history.
The governor, lieutenant governor, and House Speaker appointed flag commissioners, and the public submitted more than 3,000 designs, including one featuring a giant mosquito. Legislators stated that the new flag could not contain the rebel symbol and must contain “In God We Trust”. They also said there would be a single flag on the ballot for a yes-or-no vote.
The new flag pays homage to Native Americans with a gold star made up of five diamond shapes. The diamond motif is important to the Choctaw culture.
As a formality, the legislature must implement the new flag design into law. This measure is not up for debate as the law removing the old flag requires lawmakers to pass the new one if voters accept it.
Nathan Cash, a 68-year-old auto mechanic from Pearl, said he voted in most of Tuesday’s races but skipped the flag issue. Cash, who is white, said a flag is “nothing to be upset about” and the old one didn’t bother him. Cash stood in front of a polling station on Tuesday evening, shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’ve always liked it, but now what?”
Eartia Cotten, a 61-year-old retired accountant from Madison, said she enthusiastically voted for the new flag with the state flower.
“I love it,” said Cotten after casting her ballot on Tuesday.
Cotten, who is black, said she didn’t care about the old flag. “I’ve got used to it,” she said. “It’s exactly what we had.”
A group called Let Mississippi Vote is launching an initiative to try to revive the old Confederate flag by making it and a few other designs available for a nationwide vote. Organizers must collect more than 106,000 signatures to receive their ideas for voting in 2022. Limited public interaction during the coronavirus pandemic could hamper your efforts.
White supremacists in the Mississippi legislature adopted the flag with the Confederate Battle emblem in 1894 to bring to power the blacks won during the Reconstruction. For decades, this flag was fissile in a state with a significant black population currently around 38%. A majority of voters voted to keep the flag in a 2001 election, but several cities, counties, and all of Mississippi’s public universities had stopped flying it because of the Confederate symbol.
For decades, South Carolina flied a Confederate flag on or near the Statehouse in Columbia. Legislators there removed the flag after a white supremacist killed nine black people while worshiping them in a church in Charleston in 2015. The shooter had previously posed for photos with a rebel flag.
Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.
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