By Edelia “Dr. Jay” Carthan,
After 127 years, Mississippi officially has a new flag. Governor Tate Reeves signed a bill Monday at the Two Mississippi Museums, officially adopting the new flag with the phrase, “In God We Trust” into law. The new state flag, known as the Magnolia flag, replaces the Confederate flag that was selected in 1894 by white supremacists in the state legislature a generation after the South lost the Civil War.
Immediately after signing the bill, officials hosted a ceremony to raise the new Magnolia flag at the State Capitol. A crowd of about 100 people gathered in near freezing weather to witness the new flag being raised over the state capitol. “A new chapter in our history begins today.” House Speaker, Republican Philip Gunn, told the crowd gathered to witness history.
“When many looked at our former flag, they just saw a symbol of the state and heritage they love. But many felt dismissed, diminished and even hated because of that flag,” Reeves said. “That is not a firm foundation for our state. So today, we turn the page.”
The new state flag was approved by state referendum November 3 after the legislators voted to retire the old Confederate flag in late June. They formed the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag and accepted ideas for a new state flag from the public. Three finalists were selected but the white magnolia flower and the phrase “In God We Trust” on a red field with a gold-bordered blue pale won the design for the new state flag.
Mississippi voters chose to keep the Confederate flag during the 2001 election. However, as support grew for a new state flag, some municipalities and all eight of Mississippi’s public universities stopped flying the Confederate flag over the last several years after the 2015 murder of nine black worshippers at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopah Church. White supremacist Dylann Roof, 21, posted photos on his website with emblems associated with white supremacy and the Confederate battle flag.
Ongoing campaigns and protests by groups such as 1 Flag for All, X the X, and the NAACP, and influential individuals like Judge Carlos Moore and actress and activist Aunjanue Ellis and countless others also contributed to a new state flag.
“Sometimes you just have to step out on faith, do the right thing, and watch God so the rest. Three and a half years later, Mississippi has a new state flag with a magnolia and no confederate emblem. Never be afraid to do the unpopular thing if your mission is right and just. Black folks must now demand reparations not only in Mississippi but across America,” Judge Moore wrote on his Facebook page.
Support to change the Confederate flag as the official state flag grew even more last summer after the world witnessed the murder of George Floyd which sparked national protests against racial injustices that happened across the nation as well as internationally. Support grew after Mississippi State student and star athlete, Kylin Hill, tweeted, “Either change the flag or I won’t be representing the state anymore & I meant that…I’m tired.” The NCAA, SEC, coaches and ministers all spoke out in support of a new flag. Fifteen days later, a bill was on the table to change the confederate flag.
Mississippi legislators voted June 30, 2020 to retire the state flag that included the confederate battle emblem.
Designed by William Porcher Miles, the flag widely known as the “Confederate flag” is now in the Civil Rights Museum where it belongs. It was adopted as a battle flag by the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee. It is also known as the rebel flag, dixie flag and the Southern Cross and was used by the Ku Klux Klan to terrorize black people, but.
The flag was the result of the backlash against political power black people attained during the 12 years Reconstructed lasted. It only took 127 years to “turn the page” in Mississippi.
The magnolia design proposal was put on the November 3 ballot and was approved by Mississipians with 71% of citizens voting yes for the new design.
Hopefully, this is the first step to a new path for Mississippi.