Mississippi lawmakers voted Sunday to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, more than a century after the design was adopted a generation after the South lost the Civil War.
Officials held a ceremony Wednesday to retire the former state flag and send it to a history museum, a day after Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed a law stripping the symbol away.
Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn, who is white, has pushed for five years to change the flag, saying the Confederate symbol is offensive. The House passed the bill 91-23 Sunday afternoon. Within hours, the Senate followed suit, 37-14.
“Change is hard,” he said. “People are going to resist initially, but I think over time it’s going to be proven that this was the right decision. We’re poised to reach our full potential now.
“We try to overcome enough obstacles in Mississippi as it is,” Gunn said. “This is an opportunity for us to find a flag that’s unifying for all Mississippians, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The southern state will adopt a new flag, incorporating the words “In God We Trust” but excluding the so-called “stainless banner”.
Voters will be asked to approve the new design in the Nov. 3 election.
If they reject it, the commission will set a different design using the same guidelines, and that would be sent to voters later.
State Rep. Jeramey Anderson, a Democrat from Moss Point, applauded its passage Sunday as a “historic moment.”
“I thank those who came before us, who with courage and resolve nurtured the Civil Rights Movement that helped bring us to this day,” he tweeted. “What a beautiful moment of unity.”
Democratic state Rep. Zakiya Summers tweeted, “I just through the deuces to the state flag that’s at the entrance of the house chamber!”
The Confederate battle emblem has a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars, adding by legislators to the upper-left corner of the Mississippi flag in 1894.
From the Mississippi History Now: “Without much attention or even public knowledge, the 1894 Mississippi Legislature, acting on the recommendation of Governor John M. Stone, approved a flag with three bars of blue, white, and red and a canton in the top left corner that contained the Confederate Battle Flag.”
Stone was the Democratic governor from 1890-1896.
Reeves said changing the state flag will not fix the divisiveness in Mississippi. Bringing the state together, he wrote, “will be harder than recovering from tornadoes, harder than historic floods, harder than agency corruption, or prison rights or the coming hurricane season — even harder than battling the Coronavirus.”
Republicans overwhelmingly control both chambers of the legislature, 36-16 in Senate and 74-45 in the House.